MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - A federal grand jury has indicted 41 people on charges that they conspired in a multi-state ring to traffic heroin, prescription drugs and other narcotics on two northwest Minnesota Indian reservations, authorities said on Thursday.
The defendants "represented the most significant source of heroin in Indian Country," U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said in a news release.
Prosecutors accused the defendants with conspiring to move drugs from Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis to the Red Lake and White Earth Indian Reservations. At least 35 people were in custody on Thursday in Minnesota and other states, they said.
Some defendants also are charged with firearms offenses and other crimes related to the operation, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Omar Sharif Beasley, 37, was the ring leader from at least April 2014 to April 2015, recruiting drug sources and people ranging from managers to drivers to move them to the reservations and communities in North Dakota.
Beasley is accused of traveling to the reservations and communities to provide drugs to others for distribution and then replenishing the supply in trips to major cities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan.
The police departments for the reservations, local and state agencies in Minnesota and several federal agencies including the DEA, ATF and FBI worked on the investigation.
"Many lives, families and communities have been damaged or destroyed from this poison," White Earth Police Department's Public Safety Director Randy Goodwin said in the release.
The indictment alleges that 17 defendants helped obtain or move the drugs from Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and North Dakota. A dozen helped distribute drugs and maintained stash houses on the Red Lake reservation and 11 did the same on the White Earth reservation, it said.
The indictment was filed on May 20 and unsealed on Tuesday. All of the defendants eventually will make appearances in U.S. District Court in Minnesota.
(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Sandra Maler)