The leader of a 40-person drug ring that delivered heroin to northern Minnesota Ojibwe reservations is headed to a 25-year prison sentence.
The U.S. Attorney's office announced Wednesday that Omar Sharif Beasley, 39, reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that includes the 25 years in prison and then 10 years of supervised release.
Authorities say for at least a year the operation funneled heroin and other narcotics to the Red Lake and White Earth Reservations in northwestern Minnesota and to tribal lands in North Dakota.
While 40 people have now been sentenced in connection with the trafficking operation, prosecutors say Beasley was its leader and he recruited drug sources, managers, distributors, facilitators, couriers, and drivers for the network.
The case is not quite closed, though. One of the people who has been charged remains at large. Agents are still searching for 29-year-old Burney Abdulah Peoples.
The charges against Beasley and his co-defendants date back to a grand jury indictment filed nearly two years ago. It said Beasley made regular trips to Minneapolis, Chicago, and Detroit to replenish his supply, bringing the drugs back to his network of traffickers in Indian Country.
William Brunelle, the public safety director for the Red Lake Police Department, said when the charges were filed: "There's a perception that reservations don't have the resources or the law enforcement manpower; that tribal reservations in particular are easy targets," Red Lake News reported.
Brunelle says drug sellers who traveled to the reservation created an epidemic there and tore apart families. He told the Pioneer Press that in 98 percent of the cases where children had to be removed from Red Lake homes and put in foster care, drug use was a factor.
On Wednesday authorities hailed the many different law enforcement agencies that worked together on the case. The acting U.S. Attorney for Minnesota credited 26 federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement groups.
A special agent in charge at the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, James Modzelewski, said: "I am confident that with the strong partnerships we have built throughout this investigation anyone willing to put themselves in a similar position as Omar Beasley will see the same fate."