Bakersfield, California – U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, Acting U.S. Attorney Christopher C. Myers (District of North Dakota), North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Special Agent in Charge Richard Thornton (Minneapolis FBI), Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller (Sacramento FBI) and Bakersfield Chief of Police Greg Williamson announced indictments of 22 individuals in western North Dakota and seven defendants in Bakersfield on drug trafficking charges.
The indictments are a result of an investigation by the North Dakota-based Bakken Organized Crime Strike Force, which was formed to address organized crime arising from the oil boom in the Bakken region in North Dakota.
According to court documents, from June 2014 until June 2015, defendants in Bakersfield and Minot, North Dakota conspired to bring methamphetamine and heroin from Bakersfield and distribute it in Minot. The seven defendants charged in the Eastern District of California were all arrested in the Bakersfield area by FBI agents and Bakersfield police officers Tuesday morning.
Acting U.S. Attorney Chris Myers stated: “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. 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.”
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner remarked: “Cross-jurisdictional cooperation is essential for effective narcotics enforcement. 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.”
SAC Richard Thornton said: “The FBI is committed to the security of the Bakken area of North Dakota. 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.”
Greg Williamson, Chief of Police, Bakersfield stated: “The Bakersfield Police Department is proud to have been a part of this investigation. 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 Federal Bureau of Investigation. We are looking forward to assisting the United States Attorney’s office in North Dakota in following through and seeing justice done in this matter.”
Two indictments charge seven Bakersfield residents in the Eastern District of California as follows:
Ricardo Cruz Gomez Jr., 23, conspiracy, distribution of methamphetamine; Marquiz Demitric Tucker, 44, conspiracy, possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, racketeering; Labrea Leshawn Davis, 29, possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, racketeering; Robin Lee, 25, possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, racketeering; Nina Johnson, 35, possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, racketeering; (Docket # 1:15-cr-209 LJO); and Michael Muniz, 43, and Ruben Valdez Jr., 37, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and distribution of methamphetamine. (Docket # 1:15-cr-211 LJO)
Assistant United States Attorney Brian Delaney of the Bakersfield office is prosecuting these cases in the Eastern District of California.
If convicted, the defendants face a statutory penalty of 10 years to life in prison and a $10,000,000 fine for the conspiracy, up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, and up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for racketeering. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The indictment unsealed on Tuesday in North Dakota charges the following 22 defendants with trafficking methamphetamine and heroin, firearms offenses and money laundering:
Ronnie Ray Taylor, 43, Bakersfield; Terrance Darshay Lynn Peterson, aka Turtle, 42, Minot, North Dakota; Victor Murillo, aka Vic, 32, Bakersfield; Debra Meladore Davis, 49, Minot; Bryan Keith Davis, 48, Minot; Regina Rose Lehman, 43, Minot; Michael John Gietl, 43, Minot; Robert Raymond Althaus, 44, Minot; Peggy Lee St. Claire, 53, Minot; Jade Marie Backman, 33, Minot; Jody Lee Deharty, 25, Minot; Ricky Dean Strahan, 56, Minot; Gerald Wayne Osby Jr., 22, Minot; James Alex Locklear, 27, Minot; Alyssa Jo Schlienz, 21, Minot; Audra Dezzari Harris, 39, Minot; Gilbert Eugene Graim Jr., 21, Bakersfield; Teoshalashanae M. Songcuan, 24, Bakersfield; Deandre Trayvon Peterson, 24, Minot; Jimmy Dale Price, 42, Minot; Miranda Leigh Grant, 30, Minot; Rodney Lee Jackson, 49, Carson, California.
Assistant United States Attorney Rick Volk is prosecuting these cases for the District of North Dakota.
These cases are being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Kern County Violent Crime and Gang Task Force, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Bakersfield Police Department, Minot Police Department, Ward County Sheriff’s Office, Ward County Narcotics Task Force, Drug Enforcement Administration, Metro Area Narcotics Task Force, North Dakota Highway Patrol, and United States Border Patrol, with assistance from the Kern County Probation Department.