Steve Wagner, Forum Communications Co., Published February 02 2012
Bemidji gang leader arrested
Wakinyan Wakan McArthur, 33, was arrested Wednesday night and appeared in federal court Thursday on charges which, if convicted, could land him in prison for life.
An indictment unsealed this week details crimes on the state’s American Indian reservations – including Leech Lake, Red Lake, White Earth and Mille Lacs – and near Duluth and the Twin Cities area.
Law officers also arrested Christopher Lee Wuori, 24, of Cass Lake, when they apprehended McArthur without incident Wednesday night in northeast Minneapolis, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A third suspected gang member, 23-year-old Eric Lee Bower, of White Earth, remains at large. Anyone with information on Bower’s whereabouts is asked to call the U.S. Marshals Service tip line at (651) 848-1444.
McArthur, also known as “Kon” and “Killa,” directed gang activity while in prison, where he organized Native Mob meetings for inmates, according to federal court papers.
“This office considered it very important” to arrest McArthur, Jeanne Cooney, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis said Thursday. “We considered McArthur a leader in the mob. It’s important to take him off the streets.”
A person with intimate knowledge of the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said McArthur led the gang and was working on a succession plan, including training a replacement leader to work on his behalf if McArthur returned to prison. The alleged replacement, Shaun Michael Martinez, also known as “Tinez,” was arrested last week.
In 1999, McArthur began serving a sentence for the second-degree murder of Jerome Peake, 21, in Minneapolis.
Updated court papers released this week state McArthur:
<•> Wrote a 2004 letter describing his plan for the Native Mob, including the “need to hold people accountable, foes or our own. Discipline and promote fear is the quickest way to progress our case.” In 2006, McArthur wrote a letter to a Native Mob member to explain he was recruiting new members and holding gang meetings in prison.
<•> In Cass Lake in 2007, he ordered known Native Mob members to carry out a drive-by shooting at a home occupied by a rival gang member. A 9mm gun was used to shoot at the occupied home seven times.
<•> McArthur gave permission to a Native Mob member to assault a prison inmate in 2008.
<•> He and others attended several meetings in Cass Lake, Duluth, Minneapolis and unnamed locations during 2009, 2010 and 2011 to talk about gang business and activities. Wuori, the other suspected gang member arrested this week, participated in some of the meetings.
<•> In 2010, McArthur, Wuori and several others met near Duluth to discuss killing gang enemies, delivering firearms from northern Minnesota to Minneapolis, drug trafficking, collecting money for incarcerated Native Mob members and identities of witnesses believed to be cooperating against the Native Mob.
Several other crimes are spelled out in the indictment against 24 defendants, including attempted murder, drive-by shootings, pistol whippings, assaults and selling cocaine. Some violent crimes were directed at members of the Native Gangster Disciples.
Last week, a statewide prison lockdown preceded a sweep for suspected Native Mob members on the White Earth, Mille Lacs and Leech Lake Indian reservations. Twenty-three of the 24 named defendants have been arrested, with Bower the lone suspect still on the lam.
More than 100 local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement agencies have worked on the gang investigation, according to the Department of Justice.
The Native Mob, a well-structured, highly organized gang with influence from the Twin Cities to reservations throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, started in the 1990s in Minneapolis and membership is estimated at around 200.
Federal court papers state 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.
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.
According to Pioneer archives, McArthur made his first court appearance when he was 11. By age 15, he had been charged with numerous crimes, including theft, assault and gun possession.
In 1995, when McArthur was 16, he pleaded to unintentional second-degree murder after prosecutors failed to prove intent for the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Stacy Rivers at a Minneapolis party. A judge stayed a 12½-year sentence and McArthur received probation and time in a juvenile home.
When he was 19, McArthur was charged with Peake’s murder and he began serving time in 1999. The Local Indian Councils considered banishment as McArthur neared release from prison.
Wagner writes for the Bemidji Pioneer, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.