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August 12, 2015

Bakken Organized Crime Strike Force Leads to Indictment of 29 Defendants for Drug-Related Offenses in North Dakota and California

WASHINGTON—Acting U.S. Attorney Christopher C. Myers of the District of North Dakota, in conjunction with U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner of the Eastern District of California, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem of North Dakota, Special Agent in Charge Richard Thornton of the FBI’s Minneapolis Division and Chief Greg Williamson of the Bakersfield Police Department, announced the indictment of 22 individuals in western North Dakota and seven defendants in Bakersfield, California.

On June 3, 2015, the Bakken Organized Crime Strike Force was formally announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Myers, North Dakota Attorney General Stenehjem, Director Bruce Ohr of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter of the District of Montana. The indictments are a result of Operation Western Edge, an OCDETF investigation into the trafficking of methamphetamine and heroin from Bakersfield to the Bakken region.

“The strike force was designed to work as one unit to identify, target and dismantle criminal organizations working in the Bakken, and reach beyond the borders of North Dakota to ensure the entire criminal organization is brought to justice,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Myers. “After only a few months we are seeing the efficiency, strength and extended reach provided by the strike force model. The results here are exactly what we hoped for when we designed the strike force.”

“Cross-jurisdictional cooperation is essential for effective narcotics enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “We are grateful to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota for its leadership in this case, and to our state and federal law enforcement colleagues in both states for their professionalism and assistance.”

“These are the results we can expect with the cooperative efforts as exemplified by the Bakken Strike Force,” said North Dakota Attorney General Stenehjem. “This investigation involved over two years of diligent efforts by various state, local and federal enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Criminal Investigation under my authority. I am committed to continuing our joint efforts with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI, not just through the Bakken Strike Force, but on other enforcement operations.”

“The FBI is committed to the security of the Bakken area of North Dakota,” said Special Agent in Charge Thornton. “We will continue to aggressively investigate organized crime wherever it may be found. We will work with our law enforcement partners, through the Bakken Organized Crime Strike Force, to ensure that those who engage in this type of criminal activity pay a high price.”

“The Bakersfield Police Department is proud to have been a part of this investigation,” said Chief Williamson. “Criminals pay no attention to jurisdictional lines and when a criminal enterprise crosses several states it can quickly exceed the resources of local agencies. That’s when the capabilities of the federal authorities become invaluable in making a difference in our city’s streets and neighborhoods. We are happy to have had this opportunity to work with our law enforcement partners in North Dakota and the FBI. We are looking forward to assisting the U.S. Attorney’s Office in North Dakota in following through and seeing justice done in this matter.”

Defendants indicted in North Dakota:

  • Ronnie Ray Taylor, 43, of Bakersfield;
  • Terrance Darshay Lynn Peterson, aka Turtle, 42, of Minot, North Dakota;
  • Victor Murillo, aka Vic, 32, of Bakersfield;
  • Debra Meladore Davis, 49, of Minot;
  • Bryan Keith Davis, 48, of Minot;
  • Regina Rose Lehman, 43, of Minot;
  • Michael John Gietl, 43, in federal custody;
  • Robert Raymond Althaus, 44, of Minot;
  • Peggy Lee St. Claire, 53, of Minot;
  • Jade Marie Backman, 33, of Minot;
  • Jody Lee Deharty, 25, of Minot;
  • Ricky Dean Strahan, 56, of Minot;
  • Gerald Wayne Osby Jr., 22, of Minot;
  • James Alex Locklear, 27, of Minot;
  • Alyssa Jo Schlienz, 21, of Minot;
  • Audra Dezzari Harris, 39, of Minot;
  • Gilbert Eugene Graim Jr., 21, of Bakersfield;
  • Teoshalashanae M. Songcuan, 24, of Bakersfield;
  • Deandre Trayvon Peterson, 24, of Minot;
  • Jimmy Dale Price, 42, of Minot;
  • Miranda Leigh Grant, 30, of Minot; and
  • Rodney Lee Jackson, 49, Carson, California.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Volk is prosecuting these cases for the District of North Dakota.

Defendants Indicted in the Eastern District of California:

  • Ricardo Cruz Gomez, 23, of Bakersfield;
  • Marquiz Demitric Tucker, 44, of Bakersfield;
  • Labrea Leshawn Davis, 29, of Bakersfield;
  • Robin Lee, 25, of Bakersfield;
  • Nina Johnson, 35, of Bakersfield;
  • Michael Muniz, 43, of Bakersfield; and
  • Ruben Valdez Jr., 37, of Bakersfield.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Delaney is prosecuting these cases for the Eastern District of California.

The indictments from both districts were recently unsealed and are merely accusations; the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

The case is being investigated by the FBI, the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Bakersfield Police Department, the Minot Police Department, the Ward County, North Dakota, Sheriff’s Office, the Ward County Narcotics Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Metro Area Narcotics Task Force, the North Dakota Highway Patrol and the U.S. Border Patrol.

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