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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of North Dakota

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

U. S. Attorney Timothy Q. Purdon to Step down

Purdon’s term as U.S. Attorney highlighted by commitment
to improving public safety in Indian country

Bismarck, North Dakota – Timothy Q. Purdon announced today that he will step down as the United States Attorney for the District of North Dakota on March 12, 2015, after serving more than four and a half years in office. Mr. Purdon has informed President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder of his decision. First Assistant United States Attorney Chris Myers will become Acting United States Attorney for the District of North Dakota on March 13, 2015.

"Serving as United States Attorney for the District of North Dakota is the greatest honor and privilege a lawyer could ever have," United States Attorney Purdon said today. "In reflecting on all we have accomplished over the past four and half years, I am deeply grateful to President Obama and Attorney General Holder for the opportunity they have given me to serve the people of North Dakota. I leave with a deep respect for the skill and dedication of the career prosecutors, attorneys, and staff at the North Dakota United States Attorney’s Office and at the Department to Justice. I am proud of our successes over the past few years, and I am confident they will continue under the skilled leadership of Acting United States Attorney Chris Myers."

"Tim Purdon has been an outstanding United States Attorney, a fierce advocate for the people of North Dakota, and a strong national leader whose efforts to improve public safety in Indian Country have made a profound difference – and touched countless lives," said United States Attorney General Eric Holder. "Throughout his tenure, Tim has distinguished himself as a skilled attorney and a consummate public servant, rising to challenges as diverse as human trafficking, violent crime, drug trafficking, and fraud. His work to forge close partnerships with tribal leaders – and to develop and implement an Anti-Violence Strategy for Indian Country – have provided a model for success, increased federal prosecutions on North Dakota’s reservations, and laid a strong foundation on which future efforts can be built. His exceptional leadership and wise counsel at the national level – advising me and other Justice Department officials as Chair of the Native American Issues Subcommittee – have had an important and enduring impact. And although we are all sorry to see him go, I am proud to join Tim’s dedicated colleagues in thanking him for his exemplary service as United States Attorney, and wishing him all the best as he begins a new chapter in his career."

Mr. Purdon’s signature initiative as U.S. Attorney was the 2011 implementation of the Office’s Anti-Violence Strategy for Indian Country in North Dakota. The Anti-Violence Strategy dedicated much-needed additional resources to the fight to improve public safety on North Dakota’s Indian reservations. The core of the Anti-Violence Strategy involved a creative effort to put Assistant United States Attorneys on the reservations on a regular basis to forge ties with the tribal communities they serve. The Strategy also included new support for crime prevention and reentry programs to complement the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s renewed commitment to the vigorous enforcement of federal laws in reservation communities. Under the Anti-Violence Strategy, prosecutions of federal crimes committed on the reservations in North Dakota have increased markedly since 2009. On June 27, 2011, the editorial page of the Fargo Forum awarded "Prairie Roses" to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the creation of the Anti-Violence Strategy. The editorial noted that Mr. Purdon was "delivering on [his] pledge" to "increase attention to reservation crime." The Forum wrote that Mr. Purdon "understands that solving entrenched problems must include building trust and relationships in addition to enforcement" and hailed the Anti-Violence Strategy as "a good start." Forum Editorial: Sheriff’s Otters Win Roses, The Forum, June, 27 2011.

U.S. Attorney Purdon also established an annual Tribal Consultation Conference between the Office and the Tribes in North Dakota. On March 16, 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s Office hosted the first such Conference. The editorial page of the Bismarck Tribune wrote that the event "confirmed Purdon’s passion and seriousness about trying to make a difference for those less fortunate, for the voices of so many that have been muted for years" and praised the Conference as "eclips[ing] other outreach efforts" in the recent past.State’s Largest Minority has Huge Impact, Bismarck Tribune, March 20, 2011. To date, four such Conferences have been held, and each has dramatically improved communication between the Office and the Tribes.

"My four and a half years as U.S. Attorney have been in the pursuit of one unbending belief: we can make the reservations in North Dakota safer," United States Attorney Purdon said today. "I have had many, many partners in this effort, but none have been more important to me than the Assistant U.S. Attorney’s and staff in my Office who come to work every day and fight to reach the goal of reducing violent crime on the reservations. These men and women are remarkable public servants, and the reservations are safer today because of their work."

Mr. Purdon’s efforts to improve public safety on American Indian reservations have made him a national leader within the Department of Justice on this issue. In 2013, Mr. Purdon was appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder to serve as the Chair of the Department Of Justice’s Native America Issues Subcommittee ("NAIS"). The NAIS is made up of 30 U.S. Attorneys from across the United States whose Districts contain Indian Country and it is responsible for making policy recommendations to the Attorney General regarding public safety and legal issues that impact tribal communities. In February of 2014, in his capacity as Chair of NAIS, Tim testified before the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on behalf of the Department.

Mr. Purdon’s creative approach to improving public safety in Indian County brought the top leadership of the Department of Justice to North Dakota during his tenure to observe first-hand the steps being taken to improve public safety in Indian Country. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the Tribal Consultation Conference in Bismarck in June of 2014. The Justice Department’s second-in-command, Deputy Attorney General James Cole, spoke at the April 2012 Tribal Consultation Conference and visited the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Associate Attorney General Tony West, the number three official at Justice, visited North Dakota and spoke with tribal members in both December 2013 and April 2014. In addition, Mr. Purdon hosted a meeting of the NAIS in Bismarck in September 2012, which drew 20 U.S. Attorneys from around the country to North Dakota. In addition to a daylong consultation with tribal leaders form North Dakota and South Dakota, the group attended and was recognized at the United Tribes Technical College Pow Wow.

Mr. Purdon has also led the charge by federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement to counter the new and violent threat from drug trafficking organizations that have targeted western North Dakota’s Bakken Oil Patch in recent years. "Our hometowns in the Bakken are developing some big city crime problems." U.S. Attorney Purdon said today. "The U.S. Attorney’s Office has led the way in fighting back to preserve our North Dakota way of life and to ensure that our hometowns remain places where people cannot only work, but also raise a family." In a series of meetings and strategy sessions in the spring of 2012, Mr. Purdon and his law enforcement partners planned a robust federal law enforcement response to the growing threats in the Bakken. The execution of this response over the last three years has included securing assignment of a record number of federal agents and prosecutors working in the Bakken region. Mr. Purdon’s leadership and commitment to protecting the citizens of western North Dakota resulted in specific investigation successes such as: Operation Winter’s End on the Fort Berthold Reservation, a joint operation between federal, state, and tribal partners that dismantled a large-scale heroin trafficking ring in the Oil Patch; the dismantling of "The Family," a violent drug trafficking cell in Williston; Operation Pipe Cleaner in Dickinson, a joint operation that took down a large drug trafficking ring in Dickinson, North Dakota; and a more than 150% increase in the number of defendants charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in western North Dakota.

Finally, Mr. Purdon has led North Dakota’s response to the growing threat of human trafficking in the state. In late 2013, the U.S. Attorney’s Office—working with state and federal law enforcement partners—executed Operation Vigilant Guardian stings in Williston and Dickinson, North Dakota. The arrests of 14 defendants who had sought to arrange commercial sex with underage girls revealed a previously unknown level of demand for underage commercial sex in western North Dakota. In response, Mr. Purdon has led the Office’s ongoing efforts to address this issue by raising the profile of the human trafficking issue in the law enforcement community, pursuing federal prosecutions of traffickers themselves, arranging training for law enforcement and prosecutors, and assisting in the creation of a state-wide network of victim service providers to support the growing number of victims of human trafficking. "The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s efforts to combat the growing threat of human trafficking in North Dakota are one of my proudest achievements," said Purdon. "The progress we have made since the Operation Vigilant Guardian stings were conducted in November of 2013 is real and substantial. There is always more to do, but we are moving toward a sustainable strategy to fight this horrible crime."

In 2014, Tim was appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder to a seat on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee ("AGAC"). The AGAC advises the Attorney General on criminal justice matters and serves as the voice of the United States Attorney community in setting Department of Justice policies. The members of the AGAC meet regularly with the Attorney General and other top Department of Justice officials in Washington, DC. "My time on AGAC gave me an opportunity to provide important input into national policy issues faced by Attorney General Holder and the Department of Justice and to highlight North Dakota issues like Indian Country and the increasing organized crime threat in the Bakken Oil Patch at the highest levels of the Department," United States Attorney Purdon observed.

While serving as United States Attorney, Mr. Purdon supervised the office’s most impactful litigation. Notable case during Mr. Purdon’s tenure, in addition to those discussed above, include the prosecution of Valentino Bagola for the murders of two children on the Spirit Lake Reservation; the Operation Stolen Youth investigation into drug trafficking organization that distributed the synthetic drug that lead to two overdose deaths in the Grand Forks, North Dakota area – an investigation which won the Office’s first Department of Justice Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force National Award; the million dollar international mail fraud prosecution of Adekunle Adetiloye; the first-in-the-nation civil case under Jenna (North)’s Act against Extradition Transport of America, LLC to recoup costs incurred by local governments in the search for an escaped prisoner near Valley City, North Dakota; Operation Prairie Thunder, a coordinated law enforcement response to drug trafficking on the Standing Rock Reservation; the investigation and prosecution of Safe Drinking Water Act violations that occurred at the Halek 5-22 produced water disposal well near Dickinson, North Dakota; the Project Safe Childhood prosecution of Darrien Anderson who had used Facebook to target underage girls in the Red River Valley for sex; and the J-LOT prosecutions of dozens of individuals, from both the Unites States and Jamaica, for their involvement in a Jamaican Lottery Scam that targeted North Dakotans.

In addition to his leadership of the Office and management duties, Purdon also participated directly in numerous criminal cases, including personally briefing and arguing several criminal appeals before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Mr. Purdon was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate as the 18th United States Attorney for the District of North Dakota on August 5, 2010. He is a graduate of the North Dakota State College of Science, Minnesota State University – Moorhead, and the Hamline University School of Law and has practiced law in North Dakota since 1995.

Following his resignation, Mr. Purdon will return to private practice in Bismarck, North Dakota where he will establish a new North Dakota office for a national law firm.

Updated February 23, 2015