The U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of North Dakota will reveal today a "major development" in the investigation of fentanyl overdose deaths and hospitalizations in Grand Forks.
The probe, which officials are calling "Operation Denial," sprang from the death of 18-year-old Bailey Henke, of Grand Forks, who fatally overdosed on fentanyl citrate, a synthetic opioid 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine, on Jan. 3. Through the probe, investigators identified 19-year-old Evan Poitra as having died from a fentanyl citrate overdose in July 2014 and three others as having been hospitalized from fentanyl overdoses.
The probe has since stretched from North Dakota to Oregon and across U.S. borders, resulting in drug conspiracy charges against at least six individuals in U.S. District Court in North Dakota: five from Grand Forks and one from Portland, Ore.
Among them is Brandon Corde Hubbard, 40, of Portland, who investigators believe imported $1.5 million worth of fentanyl citrate from Canada and China and distributed the drugs by mail throughout the United States.
Hubbard, who is charged with drug trafficking crimes and money laundering, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is set to go to trial on Sept. 15.
Hubbard allegedly had the drugs shipped from foreign countries to a Washington state business owned by a friend, Steven Fairbanks Locke Jr.
Locke has been charged with federal drug conspiracy crimes in Oregon and has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The five Grand Forks residents who have been charged with federal drug conspiracy crimes have all pleaded guilty.
Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of North Dakota Chris Myers will publicize the new developments in the case at 10 a.m. today at the Grand Forks Police Department.
An official from the U.S. Attorney's Office said the office plans to issue press releases nationally and internationally as well.