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Patrick Springer, Published January 30 2009

Red River meth ring indicted

A group of 24 people have been named in a conspiracy involving the importation of more than 100 pounds of methamphetamine to the Red River Valley, according to a federal indictment unsealed Thursday.

Nine defendants named in the conspiracy appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court in Fargo and pleaded not guilty. Each faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a possible maximum of life behind bars if convicted.

The indictment alleges the meth was brought from Mexico by way of California and Washington state to the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota to destinations including the Red River Valley.

“This is a very active investigation,” U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley told reporters after the defendants appeared at an arraignment hearing.

The investigation, which involves seven indictments, began with the seizure of 4 pounds of meth by Fargo police.

The indictment said the group laundered thousands of dollars of drug money by depositing funds in North Dakota banks and then wiring the funds to banks in Washington state.

The alleged ringleader, Miguel Angel Chavez, also is accused of committing identity theft in an effort to disguise the money laundering transactions. He is accused of running a continuing criminal enterprise.

More arrests are possible, Wrigley said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522