MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Prosecutors on Thursday charged 41 people with operating a multi-million dollar drug ring that supplied Indian reservations in Minnesota with heroin and other drugs.

Prosecutors say Omar Beasley, the ring’s alleged leader, and others brought the drugs from Chicago and Detroit and sold them on the White Earth and Red Lake Indian reservations in north central Minnesota, as well as in Native American communities in North Dakota.

At a news conference announcing the federal charges, the public safety directors from the two Minnesota reservations detailed the devastating impact drugs, and especially heroine, are having in their communities.

The problem with heroin is so severe on Minnesota’s White Earth reservation that even infants are affected.

“Sadly, even some of our newborn babies have been exposed, as the result of mothers using heroin during their pregnancies,” White Earth Public Safety Director Randy Goodwin said.

The Red Lake Reservation’s public safety director said desperate children are turning in their parents.

“Unfortunately, a percentage of the children take it up on themselves to report their living situation regarding neglect due to illegal drug abuse,” William Brunelle said. “We must turn the tide.”

While the ring sold prescription pain pills and methamphetamine, it was their pedaling of low-priced heroin and the devastation it has caused on local reservations that prompted federal investigators to pursue the case.

“Remember, heroin costs about the same as a movie ticket, and the heroin purity in Minnesota ranks among the highest in the country,” the Minnesota Drug Enforcement Administration’s Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Dan Moren said.

Prosecutors say by charging 41 people they have gutted the operation. They say Beasley, the ringleader, had a history of drug-related arrests and has been investigated before for selling on Minnesota reservations.

“With the Beasley organization out of business, there will be less heroin sold in Minnesota and less heroin available in Indian Country,” U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said.

Thirty-five of the 41 people charged Thursday are in federal custody.

During the arrests, agents seized a significant amount of heroin, cocaine and what they describe as a number of weapons.

They certainly hope it will help, but they are clearly concerned that other drug dealers will move in.

Luger publicly warned against that, saying any dealer who thinks its easier to deal drugs on a reservation is wrong, and this case proves it.

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