Correctional facility goes on lockdownMinnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing was on lockdown for more than 24 hours this week as authorities conducted a sweep targeting Native American gang members.
By: Regan Carstensen and Bethany Wesley, The Republican Eagle
Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing was on lockdown for more than 24 hours this week as authorities conducted a sweep targeting Native American gang members.
Inmates in all state prisons throughout Minnesota were confined to their cells from 4 a.m. Tuesday to 5 a.m. Wednesday as local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement officers looked for members of the Native Mob gang.
Membership in the Native Mob, which was started in the 1990s, is estimated at 200 people who are regularly recruited from communities with large, young, male, Native American populations.
The search coincided with the unsealing of a federal indictment charging 24 alleged gang members with conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity and other crimes.
“Some of the people were on the streets in the community and some of the people are currently in prison,” Minnesota Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sarah Berg said.
For that reason, prisons were locked down to ensure the safety of law enforcement as well as make sure there was no flow of information between prisoners and the public, Berg explained.
Six defendants were arrested Tuesday on the White Earth, Mille Lacs and Leech Lake Indian reservations, as well as in the Twin Cities.
Those indicted for conspiracy to participate in racketeering were: Aaron James Gilbert Jr., 24, Minneapolis; Cory Gene Oquist, 22, Bemidji, Minn.; Dale John Pindegayosh, 29, Cass Lake, Minn.; Justen Lee Poitra, 26, Cass Lake; Dale Wesley Ballinger Jr., 20, Isle, Minn.; and Damien Lee Beaulieu, 20, Onamia, Minn.
“The investigation exemplifies the law enforcement cooperation we are fortunate to experience here in Minnesota,” U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones said in a press release. “Local, state, federal and tribal investigators worked side by side to take down some of the most violent criminals in our state and, in the process, disrupt an extremely dangerous gang that diminishes the quality of life for those who live and work in Native American communities.”
Of the 18 remaining defendants, 12 are in jail or prison on other charges and six others are still sought by law enforcement, according to the Minnesota Department of Justice.
Officials with the Department of Corrections would not disclose whether any of the remaining defendants are at MCF-Red Wing for multiple reasons.
“Because of the ongoing nature,” DOC spokesman John Schadl said. “It might also be problematic, too, because if we did make an arrest at Red Wing it would be a juvenile.”
Schadl did confirm that some of the young men at MCF-Red Wing do have family members affiliated with other strategic threat groups.
“Inside prison we don’t call them gangs,” he said.
The indictment alleges that the primary objective of the gang is to preserve, protect, promote, and enhance the Native Mob’s power, territory, and financial gains by distributing illegal drugs, from crack cocaine to ecstasy.
Members also reportedly provide monetary support to other members, including those incarcerated; share with one another police reports, victim statements, and other case discovery; hinder or obstruct officials from identifying or apprehending those wanted by the law; and intimidate witnesses, according to the Department of Justice. Moreover, they purportedly maintain and circulate firearms for gang use and commit acts of violence, including murder, against individuals associated with rival gangs.
If convicted, the defendants face a potential maximum sentence of between 20 years and life in federal prison.
Bethany Wesley reports for the Bemidji Pioneer.