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Detroit drug ring leaders found guilty of bringing fentanyl pills to North Dakota reservations

"Operation Blue Prairie" sought to cut off the drug pipeline between Detroit and North Dakota. Prosecutors charged 26 people, including 17 North Dakotans.

defendants in Operation Blue Prairie
Defendants in Operation Blue Prairie. Courtesy U.S. Attorney's Office for North Dakota.
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FARGO — Two Detroit cousins led a drug trafficking ring that targeted Native American reservations in North Dakota, a jury found Friday, June 17.

Darius Ramon Sledge Jr. and Baquan Martese Sledge were found guilty in North Dakota’s federal court on several drug-related charges, including continuing criminal enterprise and maintaining a drug-involved premise. It was unclear when the men will be sentenced.

Prosecutors said the two men led a drug operation starting in 2015 that brought fentanyl pills to the Fort Berthold, Turtle Mountain and Spirit Lake reservations in North Dakota. The Sledges ran the operation that recruited North Dakotans, some who were addicted to drugs, to become low-level dealers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Fargo.

The dealers would market the fentanyl pills as oxycodone, a typical practice in peddling the pills, prosecutors said. The thousands of pills that came into the state were worth roughly $2.5 million, prosecutors said.

Multiple agencies worked on the case called “Operation Blue Prairie.”

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Along with the Sledges, prosecutors charged 24 other defendants in connection to the drug ring, including 17 North Dakotans. At least six defendants have been sentenced.

The verdict came after a 12-day trial, according to a news release.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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