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No. 2 federal prosecutor in Fargo retires

FARGO — Lynn Jordheim has been first assistant U.S. attorney so long, he remembers prosecuting online child pornographers before Internet child porn was actually a thing.

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Some criminals have always had interest in child porn, but before the Internet, they couldn’t get it. All that changed when a probation agent here discovered a cache of 140-some floppy disks in a local criminal’s possession, a first-of-its-kind federal case prosecuted by Jordheim.

“It’s, I believe, created a whole new set of criminals,” said Jordheim, who retires Nov. 30 from his post as the No. 2 federal prosecutor in Fargo after nearly 30 years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Replacing Jordheim as the top assistant to U.S. Attorney for North Dakota Timothy Purdon is Chris Myers, who has spent the past decade prosecuting drug traffickers in Fargo.

Besides the child pornography cases, Jordheim’s stint also includes the mid-1990s eradication of a then-encroaching gang movement in the Fargo region.

“It was a real problem in other communities of our size across the country,” Jordheim said Tuesday.

The gang he prosecuted was trying to establish a Fargo foothold from Chicago and brought cocaine and heroin with them.

Thanks to Jordheim’s work in court, plus the efforts of a joint task force with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, local mayors and law enforcement, gang activity is minimal here today.

“It was successful. To me, that’s one of the most significant moments,” Jordheim said.

Jordheim’s retirement comes as increased drug trafficking cases in the western part of the state overwhelm local resources and trickle east. The caseload for the Bismarck office has nearly tripled since 2009, Purdon said in a meeting Tuesday with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead’s Editorial Board.

Complicating the issue is a federal hiring freeze that has cost Purdon’s office staff members, thanks to the recent sequester.

Myers said dealers in western North Dakota are growing increasingly more sophisticated. They even tracked the effect of the recent government shutdown on agents’ controlled buys.

“They’ll ramp up negotiations during a furlough,” Myers said, as traffickers would say, “ ‘Well, if you can’t afford it, you must be with the government.’”

“This is a very important fight for the future of North Dakota,” Purdon said. “I would love to go to work just one day and not feel like I had one arm tied behind my back.”

Jordheim, who plans to work part time as an administrative law judge after retirement, said the limited resources will force federal prosecutors to prioritize.

“This office will not probably be able to do everything it has in the past,” he said. “I hope the public won’t suffer much.”