Native Mob member pleads guilty to murder
A Native Mob member pleaded guilty Friday to killing a fellow gang member, bringing to 20 the number of defendants convicted in a violent regional network.
Shaun Michael Martinez, also known as Tinez, agreed to a plea arrangement with prosecutors to a term of 43 years, although a federal judge will have final say in a hearing on the length of sentence. A date for the hearing has not been set.
"Members of the Native Mob, like those involved in any street gang, are dangerous to the public at large but also to their own community," United States Attorney B. Todd Jones said in a news release following Martinez's plea. "They prey on the vulnerable, often coercing or enticing young people to join their criminal organizations.
"By doing so, they victimize these youngsters by robbing them of the opportunity to forge a productive future for themselves. As a result, a cycle of crime and violence is allowed to continue. We must break that cycle. It is up to all of us to do our part as a community to put an end to it."
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.
Previously, court documents identified several defendants as gang members from Bemidji, Cass Lake and the surrounding area.
While Martinez reached a plea deal on the murder charge, a judge could impose a sentence up to life in prison.
In the federal prison system, there is no parole and convicts serve the entire sentence minus credit for any time accumulated for good behavior.
The U.S. Attorney's Office did not provide information Friday on which defendants have pleaded guilty in a case described by federal officials as a continuing criminal enterprise. In addition, the prosecutor's office didn't provide details on four defendants who face a jury trial Jan. 22.
On Friday, Martinez pleaded guilty to one count of murder resulting from the use and carrying of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. In the plea agreement, Martinez admitted he drove fellow gang member Jeremee Kraskey to a Minneapolis home Feb. 26, 2011.
There Martinez shot Kraskey three times to prevent him from telling officers about the Native Mob's criminal activities.
In a news release, prosecutors estimate gang membership at 200, with "new members, including juveniles, regularly recruited from communities with large, young, male, Native American populations. Association with the gang is often signified by wearing red and black clothing or sporting gang-related tattoos."
Federal indictments against 25 people, all alleged members of the Native Mob, spell out an enterprise to conduct criminal activity, including the distribution of drugs from crack cocaine to ecstasy. Federal officials also claim the gang provides monetary support to 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 to Native Mob crimes.
Court papers detail crimes on some of Minnesota's American Indian reservations - including Leech Lake, Red Lake, White Earth and Mille Lacs - and near Duluth and the Twin Cities area.
Earlier this year, a source familiar with the investigation said law enforcement regarded Wakinyon Wakan McArthur of Bemidji as the gang's leader.
Other area men indicted in the case included Christopher Lee Wuori of Cass Lake, Cory Gene Oquist of Bemidji; Dale John Pindegayosh of Cass Lake; Justen Lee Poitra of Cass Lake and Eric Lee Bower of White Earth. Not all defendants' hometowns have been identified in court papers.
Spokespeople for the U.S. Attorney's Office were not available for comment Friday afternoon and did not respond to an e-mail requesting more details.