North Dakota Oil Boom Attracts Mexican Cartels

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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North Dakota’s oil boom has attracted Mexican cartels looking for new customers, according to an FBI spokesman who replied to a CNN report. Cartels have been operating along the Bakken Shale since 2012 according to Montana U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter.

Cocaine, meth, and heroin have been trafficked in Bakken Shale by Mexican cartels according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, FBI, and Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug-related crime in North Dakota have spiked by 27 percent from 2013 to 2014 in large part because of drugs trafficked by Mexican cartels.

In 2014 Tim Purdon, then-U.S. Attorney for the District of North Dakota, stated, “It used to be if someone was selling methamphetamine in the area, there probably were six degrees of separation from a Mexican cartel or a motorcycle gang. Those drugs were passing through a lot of different hands before they ended up on the street. Generally, what we’re seeing now is only one or two degrees.”

Bakken Shale has brought “tens of thousands of jobs” because of oil production. While oil production in the state is no longer what it was at its peak, there are still many jobs and many young people eager to take them.

Despite the solid salaries that come with oil industry jobs, workers find themselves bored and alone living in all-male camps set up by the firms they work for. With boredom and money comes time for drugs. Meth and heroin use has risen in recent years due to the wealth that has come with the oil boom.

The involvement of Mexican cartels in North Dakota has prompted the FBI to open its first new U.S. office in decades. Williston, N.D., is the site of the new field office that answers to the FBI’s Minneapolis Office which manages North Dakota’s criminal activity.

North Dakota’s drug problems have caught the attention of national media outlets such as “60 Minutes.” On Dec. 6, the TV news program aired a segment about how law enforcement officials are recruiting college students to be confidential informants (CI).

One of the examples used is the case of Andrew Sadek who was given the choice of being charged for drug possession or becoming a CI. Sadek was found dead in June 2014 with a gunshot wound to the head. Sadek’s parents believe his death is linked to his work as a CI.

North Dakota State Rep. Rick Becker, who is running for the GOP nomination in the state’s gubernatorial race, is working on legislation to prevent Sadek’s situation from happening again. The proposed law will ensure potential CIs know all the risks involved in working for the authorities and that they can consult a lawyer before accepting such a deal. Becker’s efforts have bipartisan support since Democratic State Rep. Gail Money is working on a similar proposal and has reached out to the ACLU as well as Sadek’s mother.

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