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Press Release

Federal, State, and Local Agencies Honored with Midwest HIDTA Awards

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota
Combined efforts recognized for work on Mexican drug trafficking operations

SIOUX FALLS – Alison J. Ramsdell, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota, has announced multiple local recipients of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) awards. The presentation took place in Sioux Falls on April 24, 2024. The awards were presented for the extraordinary work done on the Three Sisters and Grand Ram Operations, which involved the dismantling of drug trafficking activity from Mexico to South Dakota and other states.

The Midwest HIDTA Outstanding Prosecution Award was given to those involved with Operation Three Sisters, an investigation that began when Sioux Falls Police Department (SFPD) Narcotics Detectives received information about a couple in Sioux Falls who was selling large amounts of methamphetamine. Members of the Sioux Falls Area Drug Task Force conducted an investigation into those two individuals, which resulted in the seizure of approximately two pounds of methamphetamine from their home. Investigators also located information at the home that led to the source of the illicit drugs. That information was utilized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) agents to conduct an investigation into an individual who was arranging to have methamphetamine brought to Sioux Falls from Mexico through California. Agents were then able to work up to two individuals in Mexico who were working to source narcotics to Sioux Falls and other areas. As a result of the investigation, large quantities of methamphetamine, cocaine, and fentanyl were removed from the distribution stream. In all, the investigation revealed that more than 250 pounds of methamphetamine had been distributed in the community.

The investigation and subsequent prosecutions demonstrate the impact that significant information sharing can have in dismantling large drug distribution conspiracies. The key to reaching the source in Mexico was intelligence sharing and a willingness to work together by local, state, and federal agencies investigating different members of the conspiracy. In total, twenty defendants were federally prosecuted and convicted as a result of this operation, including Salvador Madrigal, Jr., who was sentenced to 33 years and four months in federal prison on August 7, 2023.

Recipients of the Outstanding Prosecution Award include agents from the SFPD, DCI, DEA, ATF, IRS, and SDHP, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Hodges and Elizabeth Ebert, Legal Administrative Specialist Lindsay Nicola (USAO), and Litigation Support Manager Jeff Peters (USAO).

The Midwest HIDTA Outstanding Investigative Collaboration Award was given to those involved with Operation Grand Ram. During this operation, investigators infiltrated the distribution network of the drug trafficking organization (DTO). Investigators discovered that defendants were bringing methamphetamine from California and Minneapolis to South Dakota for further distribution. They also learned that at least one defendant was obtaining methamphetamine from Sioux Falls and bringing it to Wisconsin to sell. Ultimately, investigators learned that proceeds from the drugs sold in South Dakota were being sent back to individuals in Mexico. Throughout the operation, investigators seized multiple pounds of methamphetamine, thousands of fentanyl pills, and thousands of dollars. Operation Grand Ram resulted in the federal prosecution of 16 individuals for distribution of controlled substances, money laundering, and firearm violations in the District of South Dakota.

Recipients of the Outstanding Investigative Collaboration Award include agents from HSI, MCSO, DEA, IRS, and SFPD, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Hodges.

The HIDTA program, created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, provides assistance to Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States. This grant program is administered by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). There are currently 33 HIDTAs, and HIDTA-designated counties are located in 50 states, as well as in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. The DEA plays a very active role and has more than 1,500 authorized special agent positions dedicated to the program. At the local level, the HIDTAs are directed and guided by Executive Boards composed of an equal number of regional Federal and non-Federal (state, local, and tribal) law enforcement leaders. 

South Dakota counties involved in the Midwest HIDTA include Beadle, Brookings, Brown, Clay, Codington, Custer, Lawrence, Lincoln, Meade, Minnehaha, Pennington, Union, and Yankton.


Updated May 22, 2024