On November 20, United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald announced the sentencing of Tyrone James Nelson, 39, to 77 months in prison for his role in a heroin distribution conspiracy that targeted the Mille Lacs Reservation and surrounding communities. Nelson and his seven co-defendants were charged in February, and Nelson pleaded guilty on July 19.
The investigation, which covered a span from December 2017 through June 2018, was led by the Mille Lacs Band Tribal Police and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Drug Enforcement, who were instrumental in the investigation, according to Mille Lacs Band Chief of Police Sara Rice.
According to the guilty plea and other documents filed in court throughout the investigation, Nelson obtained heroin from individuals in Minneapolis and transported it to communities in and surrounding the Mille Lacs Reservation. Nelson, who was the main source and distributor of heroin in the Mille Lacs area, had befriended enrolled Mille Lacs Band members and utilized their homes to operate his business. Nelson's place of residence is unknown.
"This case and subsequent 77-month sentence sends a clear message to drug dealers that we do not tolerate their toxic business in our neighborhoods and on our Reservation," Rice said. "I am proud of our officers and investigators for their steadfast determination and unrelenting attention to continue to fight these and all drug dealers in an effort to make our Reservation safe for our Band members and our neighbors."
Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin also thanked the law enforcement partners for their critical assis- tance in this case. "I would especially like to thank our Mille Lacs Tribal Police force. They have done outstanding work in leading this effort with our federal partners to address the drug epidemic on our Reservation."