Local law enforcement vital in gang take-down

Mille Lacs County Times

At least one Onamia man has been arrested and indicted on RICO charges following a statewide take-down last week in which the Mille Lacs County Sheriffs Department and the Mille Lacs Tribal Police Department participated with dozens of law enforcement agencies across the state.

A federal indictment unsealed in part Wednesday evening, Jan. 25 charges 24 alleged members of the Native Mob gang with conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity and other crimes.

Membership in the Native Mob is estimated at 200, with new members, including juveniles, regularly recruited from communities with large, young, male, Native American populations. Association with the gang is often signified by wearing red and black clothing or sporting gang-related tattoos.

The 47-count indictment was unsealed as to six defendants who made their initial federal court appearances late Wednesday afternoon. They were apprehended earlier Tuesday, during a take-down conducted by between 100 and 150 local, state, federal, and tribal law enforcement officials. Arrests were made on the White Earth, Mille Lacs, and Leech Lake Indian reservations as well as in the Twin Cities.

“[Tribal Police Chief Dwight Reed] and his officers provided great assistance,” said Mille Lacs County Sheriff Brent Lindgren. “Everyone worked together over an extended period of time with coordination and cooperation.”

Reed said two of his deputies as well as a local agent with the drug task force were involved in the investigations.

“These guys have been working with the feds for the past 18 months,” he said. “We had to hit mulitple houses. We sent in our S.W.A.T. team as well as one of Mille Lacs County’s. Brent was real helpful in that aspect.”

Of the 18 remaining defendants, 12 are presently in jail or prison on other charges, while six continue to be sought by law enforcement. Because so many were already within the prison system, a statewide lockdown was conducted in all prisons across the state while the arrests were made. The six men arrested last week remain in custody pending their next hearings. Those charged in this indictment, along with their last known residence, include Dale Wesley Ballinger, Jr., 20, of Isle, Damien Lee Beaulieu, 20, of Onamia, Aaron James Gilbert, Jr., 24, of Minneapolis, Cory Gene Oquist, 22, of Bemidji, Dale John Pindegayosh, 29, of Cass Lake,  and Justen Lee Poitra, 26, of Cass Lake.

For the full story, see the Thursday, Feb. 2 print edition of the Times.