Comments Off on Nine women and men indicted in Stevens County on federal drug charges for Methamphetamine possession, distribution

121314_n_mst_drugbust-webMORRIS – Federal drug charges have been brought against nine people in two states, including three with connections to , after an investigation into methamphetamine distribution in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

The multi-state investigation led to the discovery of over 40 pounds of methamphetamine, worth about $2.5 million, that had been brought into and distributed throughout west central Minnesota over the last 18 months, the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday.

Stevens County Sheriff Jason Dingman said the investigation into methamphetamine distribution started locally in March 2013 after his department received complaints about drug sales in the community. Although the complaints did not provide enough information to immediately take action, they got the ball rolling.

A couple months later, officers connected with agents working with a federal Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force based in Fargo, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations to share intelligence and start putting the pieces together.

As a result of the investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s office in the District of North Dakota charged nine people in federal court with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance.

All of the suspects were indicted by a grand jury and accepted plea agreements, Dingman said.

Craig Ray Johnson, 50, of rural Alberta, was sentenced to 30 months in prison, Lorelei Ann Dierks, 48, of rural Chokio, was sentenced to 68 months in prison, Darren James Ascheman, 45, of Alexandria, was sentenced to 17 years in prison and James Joseph Caswell, 30, of Fergus Falls, was sentenced to 48 months in prison.

Cynthia Marie Hoffman, 57, of Campbell, Minn., was sentenced to 12 months in an in-patient rehabilitation center.

Scott Andrew Anderson of Fargo, N.D., will be sentenced Jan. 6, and Mitchell Phillip Fink of Tenney, Minn., will be sentenced Dec. 15. Court proceedings are still pending on two other men indicted in the case. A tenth person was set to be indicted, but was the victim of a double homicide in Fargo in November 2013.

Because of their criminal histories, Ascheman, Fink, Anderson, and a fourth man have all been identified as career criminals which may carry a sentence of 360 months to life in prison.

Dingman said this is the largest drug case the sheriff’s office has worked on recently, and that many of the drugs that were part of the investigation were being handled by suspects in Stevens County.

Because the case was a “historical conspiracy” case, the investigation to put the pieces together took about 21 months. Officers did some drug buys, but primarily focused on interviews and investigations to build the scope of the case, Dingman said.

And there was also a little bit of luck involved. On Dec. 24, 2013, a South Dakota State Patrol officer conducting a routine traffic stop uncovered another 42 pounds of methamphetamine coming into the state for delivery to one of the defendants. That methamphetamine originated from a cartel in Mexico.

“To be quite honest, sometimes investigations like this take getting lucky,” said Dingman.

They also require help and patience from members of the community who provide information or express concerns and hope to see results, Dingman said.

Despite the extent of these indictments, Dingman said that he doesn’t believe methamphetamine is as big of a problem in the community as it was during the peak in the early 2000s.

Meth is still definitely here and causing problems, but there are also other drugs that, in my opinion, may be causing as much or more problems than meth,” said Dingman.

The Stevens County Sheriff’s Office, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, West Central Drug Task Force, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations, and a federal Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force based in Fargo were all involved with this investigation.








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