Tribal Police, BIA work hand-in-hand

On May 2, U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald announced the indictment of eight individuals with conspiracy to distribute heroin on the Mille Lacs Reservation.

The Mille Lacs Tribal Police Department led the investigation along with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Law Enforcement — a relationship made possible by the Band’s successful application for federal law enforcement assistance under the 2010 Tribal Law and Order Act.

"We worked hand-in-hand with the BIA DDE drug agents," said Mille Lacs Band Chief of Police Sara Rice. "They were incorporated into our department throughout the entire process of investigation during this case."

According to the ten-count indictment, from December 2017 through June 2018, the eight individuals knowingly conspired with each other to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin. The defendants are charged with conspiracy and heroin distribution.

Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin said the Band is very grateful for the critical assistance provided by Bureau of Indian Affairs and federal law enforcement officers, and the U.S. Attorney. "I would especially like to thank our Mille Lacs Tribal Police force," said Melanie. "They have done outstanding work in leading this effort with our federal partners to address the drug epidemic on our Reservation."

U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald pointed out that Native American communities have been disproportionately affected by heroin and opioid abuse. "This is unacceptable," she said. "My office and our law enforcement partners remain aggressive in our approach to stopping those who infiltrate our communities with this poison."

Several other agencies assisted in the lengthy investigation of this conspiracy case, Sara said, thanking investigators from Mille Lacs, Crow Wing, and Sherburne county sheriff’s offices, Lakes Area Drug Investigation Division, Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force, Red Lake Tribal and Minneapolis police departments, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Drug Enforcement Agency, Minnesota Department of Corrections, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the U.S. Marshal’s Office.

Tribal Law and Order Act
In 2016, the Department of Justice granted a request by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe for the United States to assume concurrent criminal jurisdiction on the 61,000-acre Mille Lacs Reservation under the 2010 Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA).

The decision took effect on Jan. 1, 2017. Tribal, state, and county prosecutors and law enforcement agencies continue to have criminal jurisdiction on the reservation.

The Department of Justice has jurisdiction to prosecute certain crimes wherever they occur in the United States — including on the Mille Lacs Reservation.

The change under TLOA expanded this existing jurisdiction to allow federal prosecution of major crimes such as murder, rape, felony assault, and felony child abuse.