Bakken drug trade highlighted in federal report

WILLISTON, N.D. – Drug trafficking in the Bakken is highlighted in the National Drug Control Strategy released Wednesday by the White House drug czar.

The 102-page document includes several mentions of North Dakota and Montana, including about a page dedicated to the need for agencies to collaborate in response to a “burgeoning threat” in the Bakken.

“This influx of highly paid oil field workers into an area with limited opportunities for spending their income has created a market for drugs and contributed to an overall increase in crime,” the report says.

Michael Botticelli, acting director of National Drug Control Policy, was unveiling the drug control strategy Wednesday in Roanoke, Va. The previous drug czar, R. Gil Kerlikowske, visited North Dakota’s Oil Patch about a year ago.

U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon said a mention of a North Dakota-specific crime issue in such a plan is unusual, and he’s not sure it has ever happened before.

“This underscores the urgency of the need for additional law enforcement resources to respond to the growing organized crime problem we are facing in the Bakken,” Purdon said.

The document cites statistics from the FBI Uniform Crime Report that shows that crimes in the Williston Basin increased 32 percent from 2005 through 2011, and violent crimes including murder, aggravated assault, forcible rape and robbery increased 121 percent.

“These dramatic increases have overwhelmed state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies working with limited resources,” the report says.

The drug control strategy says that federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies should work together with prevention and treatment specialists “to provide a balanced, holistic approach to reducing drug use and its consequences.”

The report also mentions that the Bakken has experienced a large influx of outlaw motorcycle gangs attempting to establish “ownership” of the territory, facilitating the illegal drug trade and prostitution.

Purdon said the federal law enforcement response to the challenges has included additional agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies.

“The fact is our home towns in the Bakken are developing big city crime problems and we need more resources from every level of government — federal, state, tribal and local — to continue this fight,” Purdon said.

During a recent discussion in Minot hosted by U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., law enforcement officials called for more federal and state resources to fight crime.

Ward County Sheriff Steve Kukowski said the Drug Enforcement Agency is “invisible” in western North Dakota. Other agencies, including the U.S. Border Patrol, said they struggle to recruit and retain law enforcement officers, particularly in western North Dakota.

Heitkamp and Montana Sen. Jon Tester organized Kerlikowske’s visit to the Bakken last year. In a statement Wednesday, Heitkamp said the administration took an important step by identifying the Bakken as part of its national drug control strategy.

“I will continue to work closely with the administration, local law enforcement, and other officials to address this problem and get support to those who need it,” Heitkamp said.

The full report is available here

Law enforcement says they lack federal resources to deal with boom

MINOT, N.D. – North Dakota’s economic boom has made the state a target for criminal activity, but federal law enforcement agencies don’t have enough staff to be a deterrent, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said Friday.

Heitkamp, D-N.D., invited U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to North Dakota to discuss border security and challenges facing law enforcement.

During a roundtable meeting Friday, law enforcement officers said they are investigating more complex cases, seizing greater amounts of drugs and more weapons connected with those drug cases. But those at the roundtable said they’re not getting assistance from the Drug Enforcement Agency.

“Where is DEA in the state of North Dakota? Where are they in the western half?” asked Ward County Sheriff Steve Kukowski. “They’re invisible.”

Paul Ward, U.S. marshal for North Dakota, said he would like to be more proactive, such as expanding the High Plains Fugitive Task Force that currently operates in the eastern part of the state. But he doesn’t have enough deputies.

“It always seems to come down to staffing,” Ward said.

The U.S. Border Patrol struggles to recruit and retain workers to patrol North Dakota’s border with Canada, largely due to the lack of housing and high cost of living in the Oil Patch, said Robert Danley, patrol agent in charge.

Heitkamp said she is having a three-month dialog with the director of the Office of Personnel Management, Katherine Archuleta, to discuss the federal workforce challenges in North Dakota.

“We need these federal employees in our jurisdiction in North Dakota, but the salaries, and the cost of living and the recruitment has been really, really difficult,” Heitkamp said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has increased its staffing in North Dakota and now has 14 agents and one supervisor. The agency announced this week it is adding a second supervisor to focus on the western half of the state, said John Dalziel, the FBI’s supervisory senior resident agent in North Dakota.

Dalziel said he hopes the FBI will add four more agents in Williston soon.

Heitkamp said North Dakota also needs more staff from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the DEA, and other agencies, particularly because the federal agencies have primary jurisdiction for crimes that occur on Indian reservations.

“When you look at what this economy is contributing to the federal economy, that comes with a cost for increased federal services,” Heitkamp said.

Minot Police Chief Jason Olson said he was disappointed that the state did not increase staffing for the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Minot during the last legislative session.

Carper, who also took a helicopter tour Friday of some of North Dakota’s border with Canada, said the law enforcement representatives painted a “grim picture.”

“To hear all of this, it is disturbing, it certainly is illuminating,” Carper said.

Carper pointed out the federal government’s deficit and encouraged agencies to reach out to oil companies to see if they would get involved and contribute resources.

Dalziel said the law enforcement agencies in North Dakota have strong partnerships, allowing them to do more with less.

“It’s not grim here,” Dalziel said. “We’ve identified the problem and we will move smartly forward through it.”

Carper also planned to learn more about North Dakota’s energy production while visiting the state and is expected to participate in a discussion in Williston on Saturday on mail delivery issues in the Bakken.

Faces of the Boom: Juggling jobs keeps Williston attorney busy amid the boom

Attorney Taylor Olson, pictured Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, in Williston, N.D., has gained a lot of experience since she began working in as an attorney in 2011, including serving as an interim prosecutor for counties in the Oil Patch. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – For Williston attorney Taylor Olson, starting her law career in the Oil Patch has been a juggling act.

Olson, who returned to her hometown in 2011 to practice law, serves as Williston’s city prosecutor and is one of three attorneys who work with the Williston City Commission.

She recently completed a six-month stint as interim McKenzie County state’s attorney while the county searched for its first full-time state’s attorney, and is now serving in the same capacity for Divide County.

Olson also is the city attorney for the town of Arnegard and travels once a month to New Town, where she serves as the city’s municipal judge. In addition, she has a civil practice and helps clients resolve oil and gas issues and other matters.

“I’ve been in practice for 2½ years and my caseload and, I think, the type of experience and the amount of experience that I’ve gotten is second to none,” said Olson, 31.

Olson, a University of North Dakota School of Law graduate, recently became one of the owners of the Williston law firm Furuseth, Kalil, Olson & Evert, along with her husband, Jordon Evert.

As Williston’s municipal prosecutor, Olson handles misdemeanors, drunk driving cases and other traffic incidents, all of which have increased as the oil boom has prompted rapid population growth.

“The longer I’ve been here, the longer court goes,” she said.

Olson, who had an internship with the Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office, said she always wanted to be a prosecutor when she was a law student.

But she said she had no idea what she was stepping into when she agreed to be interim McKenzie County state’s attorney, a position the county decided to make full time due to the increase in workload.

“McKenzie County is overwhelmingly busy,” Olson said.

While there, Olson handled cases such as manslaughter charges that stemmed from highway fatalities in addition to working with the county on civil matters. Olson turned some major drug cases over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and worked in conjunction with federal authorities.

“My work in McKenzie County led me to a little bit more exposure to the bigger picture,” Olson said.

While Olson has seen firsthand the increase in crime in northwest North Dakota, she considers Williston a safe community.

“For the most part, there aren’t random acts of violence happening here,” Olson said. “A lot of the things that happen here happen at a bar at 1 o’clock in the morning or happen between drug dealers.”

Divide County, another area affected by the Bakken boom, also decided to make its state’s attorney position full time. Olson began serving in an interim role in January while the county conducts a search.

Olson, attorney Pete Furuseth and her husband share responsibilities of working for the city of Williston, also a demanding job as the city deals with the challenges that come with rapid growth.

One of the new ordinances Olson helped develop was a much-debated ban on living in a camper in Williston city limits outside of an RV park.

Olson said she’s seen the growth bring a lot of changes to Williston – both good and bad. But she and her husband, now expecting their first baby, like the community and plan to stay.

“It’s been very busy, but I think it’s been a great experience for us being out here,” Olson said.

Tribal members question chairman’s business dealings

NEW TOWN, N.D. — Pressure is building on the Fort Berthold Reservation for tribal leaders to take action after details in a criminal investigation raised questions about Tribal Chairman Tex Hall’s business relationships.

The chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes is linked in court documents to James Terry Henrikson, 34, who is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and is suspected of hiring another man to kill a business associate in Spokane, Wash.

Court records say Henrikson and two other people who worked for Maheshu Energy, an oil company controlled by Hall, are under federal investigation for allegedly defrauding the company out of millions of dollars.

Records from the investigation into the death of Doug Carlile also include an interview with an informant who says Henrikson wanted to have Hall killed, and also connect Henrikson to KC Clarke, a man who disappeared last year.

The business relationship between Hall and Henrikson, a five-time convicted felon, is worrying many tribal members, said Theodora Bird Bear, a tribal member from Mandaree.

“Henrikson has a violent past and he’s associated with other violent individuals,” Bird Bear said. “Alarm bells are just ringing for people.”

It’s also raising questions about potential conflicts of interest involving Hall’s company, a tribal contract and Blackstone Oil Field Services, a company associated with Henrikson.

The conflict of interest issue – Hall owning an oil and gas services company while also serving as chairman of the Tribal Business Council that regulates oil and gas activity on the reservation – has been questioned before but never addressed by tribal leaders, said Vance Gillette, a tribal member and attorney who lives in New Town.

“They should suspend him, investigate him,” Gillette said.

A draft tribal resolution that has circulated online among tribal members seeks to suspend Hall for 30 days and conduct an independent investigation into potential inappropriate expenditure of tribal funds involving Blackstone Oil Field Services.

The resolution says the company, associated with Henrikson and his wife, Sarah Creveling, received nearly $588,300 between December 2011 and June 2012 for “alleged road watering work” on two tribal roads. The document also says the payment to Blackstone may have included a payment to a company owned by Hall.

Attempts to reach Hall Wednesday were unsuccessful. Hall issued a statement in January that said he had been fully cooperating with investigators for months. Hall also emphasized that he has had “zero connection or affiliation with any gangs.”

Henrikson told investigators he has connections to organized crime in California.

Glenda Baker-Embry, a spokeswoman for the tribe, said a resolution seeking a suspension and investigation of Hall failed on Jan. 31 at the Tribal Business Council budget meeting.

Tribal Business Council members either declined to comment Wednesday or did not return calls seeking comment. The seven-member group headed by Hall meets at 10 a.m. today.

Tribal members, who have been turning to social media to discuss the draft resolution and seek information, are looking for the Tribal Business Council to take some action, said Charles Hudson, a tribal member who lives in Portland, Ore., and has been closely following the developments.

“I want to see some evidence that this Tribal Business Council can step up and fulfill some of its basic obligations to the people, particularly a fiduciary responsibility and holding each other accountable to some standards of conduct and good faith,” Hudson said.

Tribal member Kandi Mossett said she recently discovered photos of Hall vacationing in Hawaii in 2012 with Henrikson and Creveling on Facebook and posted them on the Facebook page People for Fort Berthold Environmental Awareness. Those photos, later removed from the page but still floating around online, prompted more questions about how closely Hall associated with Henrikson, Mossett said.

“That’s how the firestorm continued,” Mossett said.

Tribal members also are concerned about a lack of transparency with the Tribal Business Council. Bird Bear said she attended the Jan. 31 meeting but left at 2:30 p.m. after it went into a closed-door session.

“It’s not a transparent government. People want to feel confident about their government. But the transparency and the accountability is not there,” Bird Bear said.

Henrikson has not been charged in the death of Carlile, who was found shot to death on the kitchen floor of his Spokane home on Dec. 15.

However, court documents suggest investigators believe Henrikson may have hired out the killing to 50-year-old Timothy Suckow, who was arrested Jan. 14 and charged with first-degree premeditated murder in Spokane County Superior Court.

A federal grand jury indicted Henrikson on seven counts of felon in possession of a firearm and one count of felon in possession of ammunition.

Henrikson pleaded not guilty to all eight charges on Monday in U.S. District Court in Bismarck.

A jury trial is set for April 1. Henrikson is being held in federal custody without bail.

Report lists new details about Williston homicide

WILLISTON, N.D. – The victim of a Williston homicide was shot in the face at a mobile home and his body was found at a coulee east of town, according to details in a death report released Monday.

Juan L. Palacios, 51, died from a gunshot wound to the face after he was shot by an assailant with a 9 mm handgun, according to a report by the North Dakota Forensic Medical Examiner’s Office.

The shooting occurred at 2600 University Ave., Lot 57, in Williston, the report said. That is the address for a mobile home in the Elm Estates Trailer Park.

A missing person poster seeking information about Palacios said his last known location was Elm Estates.

Palacios was pronounced dead on Jan. 28 and the report lists a coulee 19 miles east of Williston on Highway 1804 as the location.

Last week, Williams County prosecutors charged Tovias Cerna Carrillo, 48, with murder in connection with the death. Charges were filed after police located Palacios’ body and a mattress that authorities had been seeking as part of the investigation.

Court records say police believe Carrillo killed Palacios on Jan. 18 or 19.

Carrillo also is charged with two counts of felony terrorizing for separate incidents. He is being held in the Williams County Jail in lieu of $2 million bond. His next court appearance is Feb. 21.

Bond set at $2 million for homicide defendant

WILLISTON, N.D. – A judge here set bond at $2 million Thursday for a man charged with murder in connection with the death of a man whose body was found with a mattress earlier this week.

Tovias Cerna Carrillo, 48, is accused of fatally shooting Juan L. Palacios, 51, on Jan. 18 or 19 in Williston, according to the court complaint.

Palacios had been reported missing person and was last seen Jan. 18 in a Williston trailer court. Authorities found his body 13 miles east of Williston on N.D. Highway 1804 with a mattress.  Police had asked the public’s help in locating the mattress..

Assistant Williams County State’s Attorney Nathan Madden requested the $2 million bond, citing the severity of the Class AA felony charge and Carrillo’s unknown ties to the area. Carrillo’s criminal history includes a 2005 burglary conviction, Madden said.

“We do have a firearm involved in this, your honor, and the evidence is pretty strong,” Madden said.

Northwest Judicial District Judge David Nelson granted the $2 million bond request and encouraged Carrillo to get an attorney.

Carrillo also is charged with two counts of terrorizing, both Class C felonies, and is accused in court documents of threatening to kill two other men in Williston.

Carrillo began to object to the terrorizing allegations, saying “it doesn’t add up,” before Nelson advised him to discuss that with an attorney.

His next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 21.

McKenzie County hires full-time state’s attorney

WATFORD CITY, N.D. – McKenzie County has hired its first full-time state’s attorney to keep up with increasing caseloads in the growing oil boom county.

Jacob Rodenbiker, a Bismarck attorney who has prosecution experience in Miami and Burleigh County, will begin working for the county next month, said County Commission Chairman Ron Anderson.

McKenzie County previously had a part-time state’s attorney, but commissioners decided the increasing criminal and civil caseload warranted hiring a full-time prosecutor, Anderson said.

“It’s a very full-time job,” Anderson said.

Not only is the number of cases up, but criminal cases have become more complex, Anderson said. In addition, other county departments are finding they need more legal advice, he said.

U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon called McKenzie County’s decision to hire a full-time prosecutor “a great step in the right direction in the fight to combat organized crime in western North Dakota.”

Rodenbiker, an associate for Vogel Law Firm in Bismarck, was out of the office Friday and not available for comment.

He is a Fargo native who worked as a prosecutor in North Dakota’s Burleigh County and Miami-Dade County in Florida, where he prosecuted criminal offenses ranging from misdemeanors to rape and murder cases, according to Vogel’s website. He also served as legal counsel for the North Dakota Insurance Department and studied international oil and gas law in Egypt during law school.

He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Law.

“He’s got a fantastic resume,” Anderson said. “We’re really pleased to have him aboard.”

Rodenbiker will have to run for office in next fall’s election.

Dennis Johnson served as the county’s state’s attorney for the past 31 years while also running a private practice. Johnson said he resigned rather than become full-time state’s attorney because he would have had to abandon long-time clients and work only for the county.

Johnson left the position Sept. 1 and a Williston attorney has filled in during the interim.

Forum News Service Reporter Mike Nowatzki contributed to this report.

Man charged in fatal Williston hit-and-run

WILLISTON, N.D. – Bond was set at $150,000 Friday for a man charged in connection with a hit-and-run that killed a 31-year-old Mississippi man.

David George Krause, 28,  is charged with manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident involving death, both Class B felonies.

Anthony Scoggins, a crane operator and father of three from Mississippi, died Dec. 5 after he was run over by a pickup outside of J Dub’s Bar and Grill in Williston.

Adam Vanderlinde, one of two passengers in the pickup, said the three men knew Scoggins had been run over, court records say. Vanderlinde said he felt a bump, looked back and saw the body, according to the court affidavit.

Police interviewed Krause on Wednesday and he said he was made aware that Scoggins had been run over by his vehicle, court records show.

Krause consented to a search of his cell phone and police found a Dec. 6 text message from Matthew Swanson, the other passenger, that read “Dude, that guy passed away last night … We should really do something. I feel terrible.”

A report from the state medical examiner’s office shows that Scoggins died of head and face injuries as a result of being run over by a vehicle, court records say.

Police interviewed the three men on Wednesday, after days of issuing pleas to the public for help in locating the pickup and the men involved. Investigators identified the men after reviewing surveillance footage and interviewing J Dub’s employees, who helped lead police to the men.

Swanson told police that on the night of the accident, he and Vanderlinde entered the four-door pickup on the passenger side, and an intoxicated male who was outside mumbled something to the group, according to the court documents.

The man attempted to return to the bar before returning to the truck and “threw punches” at Vanderlinde, who was seated in the backseat, Swanson told police. Krause was driving and quickly left the scene, Swanson told police, according to the court documents.

Police executed a search warrant at Krause’s residence and seized a four-door GMC Sierra pickup with Arizona plates.

Vanderlinde told police he and Krause washed the truck in the days after the incident because there were handprints on the vehicle, court records say. They also removed evidence from the rear wheel and tire, Vanderlinde told police.

Krause told police he washed his truck about noon on Monday.

Court information originally said Krause is from Delano, Minn., but he said in court his address is Alpine, Wyo.

Defense attorney James Thompson said Krause been doing construction work in the Bakken for about a year.

Kirsten Sjue, assistant Williams County state’s attorney, said she could not comment on whether Swanson or Vanderlinde will face charges.

In court Friday, Thompson argued for a lower bail his client, in part because Krause turned himself in to police.

Thompson said that Krause was not aware police were looking for him because the description of the pickup officers released did not match his. Thompson said the man was standing next to or hanging onto the pickup and Krause thought he may have run over the man’s foot.

“It’s not a normal hit-and-run,” Thompson said.

Sjue disputed that Krause voluntarily went to police.

“He was basically tracked down by law enforcement,” Sjue said.

After the court hearing, Thompson said Scoggins was trying to start an altercation with the group and grabbed the side of the vehicle as they tried to pull away. Thompson said Krause did not speed off.

“It seems like a situation where the decedent put himself at risk,” Thompson said.

Hit-and-run victim ‘trying to make a living for his family’

WILLISTON, N.D. – The victim of a fatal hit-and-run crash here worked in North Dakota as a crane operator to support his wife and three young girls in Mississippi.

Anthony Scoggins, 31, identified this week as the pedestrian who died late Thursday after being struck by a pickup, had been at home near Richton, Miss., days earlier and attended church with his family before returning to Williston to work.

Ladd Pulliam, director of Jones and Son Funeral Home in Richton also attends Mutual Rights Congregational Methodist Church and sat behind Scoggins the Sunday before he died.

“Nice guy, super nice guy. Just a young guy trying to make a living for his family,” Pulliam said. “Then he gets killed like this. … Hopefully somebody will have to answer for it.”

Police are searching for a pickup that left the scene of J Dub’s Bar and Grill in Williston after 10:55 p.m. Thursday after running over Scoggins.

Surveillance video shows that two men left the bar minutes before the crash and entered the passenger side of a pickup, Williston police said. The surveillance shows that Scoggins, who did not exit with the men, appeared to have a conversation with one of the men before going toward the pickup, said Detective David Peterson.

Scoggins hung onto the side of the pickup, standing on the running board, before he fell off and was run over, Peterson said. Scoggins was pronounced dead at the scene,

Community members in the Richton area, a rural part of southern Mississippi where Scoggins lived his entire life, were shocked to learn of his death, Pulliam said.

Scoggins is survived by his wife, Tracy, and three daughters, Leah, Edan and Farah, Pulliam said.

Scoggins’ Facebook page says he worked for Black Gold Logistics, which provides crane services, rig moves and other oilfield transportation in the Bakken. An employee there said they were not commenting until police conclude the investigation.

Funeral services are expected to be this weekend in Mississippi.

Police are asking for the public’s help to locate the pickup and identify the two men who left J Dub’s. Anyone with information is asked to call (701) 577-1212 or (701) 572-TIPS.

Hit-and-run victim identified as Mississippi man

WILLISTON, N.D. – The man who died late Thursday in a hit-and-run accident here was identified Monday as 31-year-old Anthony Scoggins of Mississippi.

Detective Dave Peterson of the Williston Police Department said officers are asking for the public’s help to locate the pickup and the individuals involved in the crash.

Police responded to the scene after 10:55 p.m. Thursday at J Dub’s Bar and Grill in Williston after a pickup struck a pedestrian and left the scene.

Surveillance footage shows two men leaving the bar minutes before the crash and entering the passenger side of the pickup, Peterson said. Police are asking the public’s help to locate those two men for questioning.

Anyone with information is asked to call Williston police at (701) 577-1212. Anonymous tips may be made to (701) 572-TIPS.

The pickup is described as a dark-colored Ford or Chevy pickup with a newer body style, tinted windows, chrome rims and an ATV in the back that one witness says was yellow, Peterson said.