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Nine indicted in Fargo-Moorhead crackdown on opiates

FARGO -- The efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies in the Fargo-Moorhead area have led to six federal cases that involve nine people accused of trafficking opiates this year, North Dakota's U.S. attorney announced Friday, July 1.

WILBURN, TYRONE.jpg
Tyrone Wilburn

FARGO - The efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies in the Fargo-Moorhead area have led to six federal cases that involve nine people accused of trafficking opiates this year, North Dakota's U.S. attorney announced Friday, July 1.

The charges, filed over the past two months, resulted from a collaboration of local, state and federal officers who sought to crack down on powerful opiates like fentanyl and heroin, the office of U.S. Attorney Chris Myers said in a news release.

The goal of the collaboration was to reduce the area's number of opiate overdoses, which have spiked this year, the office said. Of the nine people indicted, six are accused of dealing an opiate that resulted in someone overdosing, according to court documents.

None of the overdoses mentioned in the court documents was fatal. The victims were all revived, often with the help of naloxone, an overdose antidote also known as Narcan.

Since January, opiates have been to blame for over 10 deaths and over 50 hospitalizations in the Fargo area, with mostly young victims, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

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While overdoses, fatal and nonfatal, continue to occur, Fargo police say they have noticed a recent decline in reports. "The usage is still there, but it is difficult to determine if our efforts have contributed to the lower rates at this point," said Deputy Chief Joe Anderson of the Fargo Police Department.

The cases of the nine people charged are still pending in federal court. The U.S. Attorney's Office said the cases could lead to more arrests.

"In our federal investigations, we always strive to target the full organization and dismantle the organization from the top to the bottom," Myers said in an interview.

The cases

-One alleged dealer, 38-year-old Gregory Krutsinger, is accused of selling heroin that led to an overdose on April 2 in Fargo and another on April 19 in West Fargo, according to a criminal complaint.

-Steven Hoffman and Naomi Danielson, both 21, are accused of dealing bottles of a fentanyl solution. Hoffman told investigators he sold two bottles to Danielson, who told investigators she bought them for an acquaintance, according to a criminal complaint. On May 9, that acquaintance overdosed on fentanyl in Fargo while Danielson was with him. Later that same day, after the acquaintance was revived, Danielson also overdosed on the same fentanyl solution, the criminal complaint stated.

-Tyrone Wilburn, 43, is accused of dealing heroin to a person who overdosed April 10 in Fargo, according to an indictment.

-Brandon Jacobs, 30, is charged with dealing a mixture of heroin and fentanyl that led to an overdose in April in Fargo.

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-John Iten, 23, is alleged to have dealt various illegal drugs, including heroin, methamphetamine, LSD and furanyl fentanyl, an analog of fentanyl. He sold heroin to someone who overdosed March 29 in Fargo, an indictment stated. In April, narcotics officers raided Iten's north Fargo home and seized five guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, $1,800 in cash, some counterfeit bills and several thousand dollars worth of illegal drugs, including heroin and fentanyl, Fargo police said.

-Christian Harris, 19, Brandon Beyer, 20, and Chase Fliginger, 20, were charged in one indictment. They're accused of dealing bottles of water and nasal spray that contained fentanyl. Fliginger told a police informant that fentanyl costs $500 a gram, which is enough for 80 water bottles, according to a criminal complaint.

'As a society...'

Attorney Brian Toay is representing Hoffman and Iten. Toay said the penalties his clients could face are "extremely harsh." "You can't police your way out of drug addiction, and it seems like that's what we're trying to do," he said.

Beyer's attorney, Ross Brandborg, echoed this sentiment. "As a society, we need to look more at educating people in general and stop filling our prison with drug charges," he said.

Brandborg stressed the youthfulness of Beyer and his co-defendants. "These are really young kids that have done a stupid thing," Brandborg said. "I'm hoping at the end of the day we haven't just decided to throw these lives away to prison."

Fliginger's attorney, John Goff, said his client has an addiction problem. "We're trying to resolve this to benefit Chase personally as trying to benefit everybody in the community as much as we can," Goff said.

Danielson's attorney, Jennifer Braun, declined to comment. Phone messages left for the attorneys of the other defendants were not returned Friday.

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Seven of the nine defendants are being held at the Cass County Jail. Harris and Danielson were not in custody there.

To address the opiate issue, a series of community forums have been scheduled. One forum titled "Eyes Wide Open" already took place May 5 in West Fargo.

The next forum, "Eyes Wide Open Phase II," will be Wednesday, July 20, at the Fargo Theatre. A third forum, "Arms Wide Open," will be scheduled for this fall and will focus on how opiate users and their families can seek help.

Charges

-Brandon Beyer, 20, conspiracy to distribute and distribute a controlled substance analogue

-Chase Fliginger, 20, conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance analogue

-Christian Harris, 19, conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance analogue

-Naomi Danielson, 21, distribution of a controlled substance analogue resulting in serious bodily injury

-Steven Hoffman, 21, distribution of a controlled substance analogue resulting in serious bodily injury

-Gregory Krutsinger, 38, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a controlled substance resulting in serious bodily injury

-Tyrone Wilburn, 43, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a controlled substance and a controlled substance analogue resulting in serious bodily injury

-Brandon Jacobs, 30, a.k.a. B.J. Simonson, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a controlled substance resulting in serious bodily injury

-John Iten, 23, a.k.a. Jack Iten, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a controlled substance resulting in serious bodily injury

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