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Contraband
06/24/2013

Minnesota man sentenced in North Dakota to 10 years in federal prison for running multi-state drug conspiracy

One of 30 others who have been sentenced so far for this drug smuggling conspiracy

FARGO, N.D. — A northern Minnesota man was sentenced in federal court Monday to 10 years in prison for running a multi-state drug ring with 30 co-conspirators that sold heroin, cocaine, pot and ecstasy from Minneapolis to western North Dakota.

This sentence resulted from an investigation called "Operation Noah's Ark," which was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in cooperation with the following agencies: Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI), the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), North Dakota Parole and Probation, and Grand Forks Police Department.

Noah Bergland, 27, of Roseau, Minn., was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for operating a continuing criminal enterprise and conspiring to launder money. He was also ordered to forfeit $250,000 to the United States. Bergland pleaded guilty to the charges July 10, 2012.

"This investigation is a terrific example of how federal, state and local law enforcement agencies work together to successfully dismantle a major narcotics smuggling organization," said Michael Feinberg, special agent in charge of HSI St. Paul, which includes North Dakota. "HSI will continue to use its unique law enforcement authorities to target those who pose a threat to our communities."

"The role of IRS-CI in narcotics investigations is to follow the money so we can financially disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations such as Operation Noah's Ark," said Kelly R. Jackson, IRS-CI, special agent in charge of the St. Paul Field Office. "Today's sentencing of Noah Bergland and previously sentenced co-conspirators again emphasizes that the IRS-CI and the U.S. Attorney's office will continue their aggressive pursuit of those who launder illegal drug profits."

Operation Noah's Ark was an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation that revealed a criminal enterprise that brought cocaine, heroin, marijuana and ecstasy from the Twin Cities to numerous cities in North Dakota and Minnesota.

The metro regions where Bergland's organization distributed these drugs included the following cities: Fargo, Grand Forks and Williston in North Dakota; and Minneapolis, St. Paul, Alexandria, Thief River Falls and East Grand Forks in Minnesota.

To date, there have been 30 defendants charged as part of this investigation on drug conspiracy and money laundering charges. Those previously convicted and sentenced in this case include the following:

Convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to launder money:

  • Brian Warren Briggs, 36, Grand Forks, N.D. – sentenced to 15 years
  • Jacob Brian Skadsem, 26, Fargo, N.D. – six years and two months
  • Vary Rattanasithy, 25, Blaine, Minn. – six years
  • Andrew Frank Przekwas, 26, Roseau, Minn. – four years
  • Bryan Keith Cameron, 24, Detroit Lakes, Minn. – two years and six months

Convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances

  • Anthony Ancona, 25, Albuquerque, N.M. – sentenced to 10 years
  • Nicholas William Michael, 28, Grand Forks, N.D. – eight years
  • Andrew Michael Luehring, 21, Fargo, N.D. – five years, 10 months
  • Riley Kevin Wald, 23, Fargo, N.D. – five years
  • Peter Philip Basting, 28, Grand Forks, N.D. – four years
  • Beau Ed Vasas, 28, Spooner, Wis. – three years and eight months
  • Rachel Renee Dahl, 31, Roseau, Minn. – three years
  • James Robert Nord, 21, Fargo, N.D. – two years and months
  • Joel Garcia, 40, Minneapolis, Minn. – two years and months
  • Chad Thomas Whitney, 27, Grand Forks, N.D. – two years and months
  • Tony Joe Galle, 21, East Grand Forks, Minn. – two years and months
  • Kevin Ryan Magnuson, 22, Fargo, N.D. – one year and eight months
  • Jamie Beth Johnston, 27, Robbinsdale, Minn. – one year and six months
  • Christopher Lee Webb, 34, Burnsville, Minn. – one year and three months
  • Alexandra Evelius, 27, Minneapolis, Minn. – six months and three years' supervised probation
  • Andrew Richard Block, 26, Grand Forks, N.D. – six months and three years' supervised probation
  • Tara Lynn Lawrence, 27, Minneapolis, Minn. – 12 months house arrest and three years' supervised probation
  • Clinton James Rooney, 33, St. Paul, Minn. – three years' supervised probation
  • Timothy Michael Ploen, 37, Edina, Minn. – six months halfway house and three years' supervised probation
  • Grant Kristjan Thorfinnson, 24, Grand Forks, N.D. – two years' supervised probation

Those defendants who have pleaded guilty and still await sentencing include the following:

  • Adam Wayne Nehk, 25, Moorhead, Minn. – scheduled for July 18, 2013
  • Showin Keon Davis, 26, Golden Valley, Minn. – scheduled for July 29
  • Markie Ann Plutowski, 23, Grand Forks, Minn. – scheduled for July 29
  • Justin Michael Aaberg, 22, Alexandria, Minn. – scheduled for Sept. 23