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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 20, 2020

Mission Man Sentenced on Meth Trafficking and Firearm Charges

United States Attorney Ron Parsons announced that a Mission, South Dakota, man convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine, Possession of Firearms in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime, and Drug User in Possession of Firearms was sentenced on April 20, 2020, by Chief Judge Roberto A. Lange, U.S. District Court.

Eli Erickson, a/k/a Black, age 33, was sentenced to a total of 188 months in federal prison, followed by 5 years of supervised release, a $1,000 fine, and a $500 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.  Four firearms were also ordered forfeited due to the convictions.     

Erickson was indicted by a federal grand jury on November 14, 2018, and a Superseding Indictment was filed on September 10, 2019.  A jury convicted him on five of the aforementioned felony charges after a three-day trial on November 7, 2019.

The convictions stemmed from a conspiracy that lasted between 2015 and 2018, wherein Erickson knowingly and intentionally conspired with others to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine.  The trial testimony showed the conspiracy involved importing pounds of methamphetamine from Nebraska and distributing it on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation.  During this time, Erickson possessed two firearms in furtherance of his drug trafficking operation, namely, by using the weapons to protect his home in Mission, from which he sold methamphetamine.  Erickson also possessed these firearms and two other firearms while being a methamphetamine user.       

Drug trafficking is an inherently violent activity.  Firearms are tools of the trade for drug dealers.  It is common to find drug traffickers armed with guns in order to protect their illegal drug product and cash, and enforce their illegal operations.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of its renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and local communities to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

This case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities. For more information about Project Guardian, please see: https://www.justice.gov/projectguardian.

This case was investigated by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Law Enforcement Services; the Stanley County Sherriff’s Office; the Lexington, Nebraska, Police Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Northern Plains Safe Trails Drug Enforcement Task Force; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron J. Cook prosecuted the case.

Erickson was immediately remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Component(s): 
Updated April 20, 2020