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Forum Communications Co., Published January 31 2012

Feds seek public’s help to capture three suspected gang members

BEMIDJI, Minn. – Three suspected Native Mob members remain on the lam after last week’s prison lockdown and sweep to arrest defendants named in a federal indictment, prompting federal officials to seek the public’s help in locating them.

The U.S. Marshals Service issued wanted posters Tuesday for Wakinyan Wakan McArthur, 33, of Bemidji, Christopher Lee Wuori, 24, of Cass Lake and Eric Lee Bower, 23, of White Earth.

Considered armed and dangerous, the men are wanted on a federal indictment spelling out a violent criminal enterprise with influence from the Twin Cities to reservations throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

The indictment accuses 24 suspected Native Mob members of racketeering and other charges. Court papers state Native Mob members “regularly engaged in … drug trafficking, murders, attempted murders, assaults, robberies, and drive-by shootings.”

Members were expected to commit acts of violence and crime to maintain membership within the gang and to intimidate rival gangs, which could elevate respect and lead to promotions within the Native Mob. They also maintained and circulated a cache of firearms.

Federals officials asked Tuesday that anyone with information on the whereabouts of the wanted men to call the U.S. Marshals Service tip line at (651) 848-1444.

On Jan. 24, six men appeared on federal charges of conspiracy to participate in racketeering, including Cory Gene Oquist, 22, of Bemidji; Dale John Pindegayosh, 29, of Cass Lake; and Justen Lee Poitra, 26, of Cass Lake.

Oquist, known as “Guns,” and Poitra, known as “Justo,” face charges of conspiracy to use and carry firearms during and in relation to a crime of violence and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

Pindegayosh, known as “J.P.,” faces conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, and being a felon in possession of ammunition.

The statewide sweep of suspected Native Mob members coincided with a prison-wide lockdown. More than 100 local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement agencies have worked on the gang investigation, according to the Department of Justice. Arrests were made on the White Earth, Mille Lacs and Leech Lake Indian reservations.

The Native Mob started in the 1990s in Minneapolis and membership is estimated at around 200.

Federal court papers state the primary objective of the mob 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.

They 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.

The Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force; Headwaters Safe Trails Task Force; Bemidji Police Department; Beltrami, Cass, Crow Wing, Itasca and Mahnomen county sheriff ‘s offices; Leech Lake Tribal Police Department, Red Lake Tribal Police Department and White Earth Tribal Police Department were among agencies that took part in the coordinated arrest effort last week.