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Alleged gang members of "Native Mob" arrested in region

A Bemidji man and two Cass Lake men are among six men who have been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for their alleged roles in the so-called Native Mob.

Cory Gene Oquist, 22, of Bemidji; Dale John Pindegayosh, 29, of Cass Lake; and Justen Lee Poitra, 26, of Cass Lake, were among six men who made their initial federal court appearances Tuesday afternoon, indicted for conspiracy to participate in racketeering.

Oquist, known as "Guns," and Poitra, known as "Justo," also were charged with 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.," also was charged with 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 three were among six men arrested Tuesday in a coordinated take-down effort involving between 100 and 150 local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement agencies, according to the Department of Justice. Arrests were made on the White Earth, Mille Lacs and Leech Lake Indian reservations.

The federal indictment unsealed Tuesday charges 24 total defendants, all alleged members of the Native Mob, with conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity and other crimes.

Of the 18 remaining defendants, 12 are currently in jail or prison on other charges and six others are still sought by law enforcement, according to the Department of Justice.

The Native Mob started in the 1990s in Minneapolis and its members routinely engage in drug trafficking, assault, robbery and murder, according to the Department of Justice. Membership is estimated at around 200.

"The investigation exemplifies the law enforcement cooperation we are fortunate to experience here in Minnesota," said U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones in a press release. "Local, state, federal and tribal investigators worked side by side to take down some of the most violent criminals in our state and, in the process, disrupt an extremely dangerous gang that diminishes the quality of life for those who live and work in Native American communities."

The indictment alleges that since at least the mid-1990s, the defendants and others have conspired to conduct criminal activity through the Native Mob, in violation of the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

The indictment alleges that 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. Moreover, they purportedly maintain and circulate firearms for gang use and commit acts of violence, including murder, against individuals associated with rival gangs.

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 the many agencies that took part in the coordinated effort Tuesday.