FARGO — Federal prosecutors have started to unveil defendants in a significant opioid trafficking case they say led one of the most violent Detroit gangs to North Dakota Indian reservations.
In likely his last news conference, U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley on Wednesday, Feb. 24, named DeVonsha Dabney and Romel Rambus, two 26-year-olds from Detroit, as suspected ring leaders of the Reub gang, which allegedly trafficked tens of millions of dollars worth of fentanyl and oxycodone pills to the Fort Berthold, Spirit Lake and Turtle Mountain reservations in North Dakota. Indictments have not been unsealed for the two men because charges haven’t been brought against 24 other possible defendants, Wrigley said.
“You are going to see a lot of this case in the months and maybe even in the years up ahead,” Wrigley said, referring to the case as Operation Letter to Reub.
The case is not the first large-scale investigation into opioids coming from Detroit to North Dakota. In January, Wrigley announced 26 defendants were charged in a separate ring that targeted the same North Dakota tribes. Dubbed Operation Blue Prairie, that investigation uncovered the trafficking of tens of thousands of oxycodone pills worth $2.5 million that came from Detroit.
Brothers Baquan Sledge and Darius Sledge are accused of leading that drug operation that started in 2015, according to court documents. That case was unprecedented, but authorities have discovered multiple groups are dealing opioids on North Dakota reservations, Wrigley said.
Prosecutors allege the 30-person group at the center of Operation Letter to Reub started trafficking opioids to North Dakota in 2015, with operations continuing into this year. The U.S. Attorney Office in North Dakota was made aware of the case last summer, Wrigley said.
Suspects are unique to their own alleged operations, Wrigley said. However, Detroit has become a hub for shipping opioids to various parts of the U.S., he said.
Wrigley declined to say how much fentanyl and oxycodone the Reub gang allegedly brought into the state but said it made up a “very significant portion of the narcotics coming into North Dakota.”
Wrigley suggested Rambus and his brother, Reuben, started drug operations in North Dakota before Reuben Rambus was shot in late 2016 in Detroit. He was 23 years old, according to media reports.
Romel Rambus appeared to have started the gang as a tribute to his brother, Wrigley said.
There is a third person suspected of supervising several members, but he remains at large. Four other defendants — Osagyefo Nagbe, 19, Farmington Hills, Mich.; Jonathan Bernard Walker, 39, Detroit; Basil Huntsalong, 35, Mandaree, N.D.; and Dennison Jay Nex Jr., 29, Parshall, N.D.; — were named in Wednesday's news conference.
Only eight of the 30 defendants are from North Dakota, while the remaining are from the Detroit area, Wrigley said. He said evidence suggests defendants used violence, threats, firearms and sex to force people to join the gang.
The gang found its way to North Dakota because they can get a premium price for selling drugs, sometimes $100 per pill, Wrigley said. They are preying on Native Americans who suffer from addiction, he added.
The suspects used social media heavily to communicate with each other and brag about their profits, Wrigley said. He called them a very talkative group.
Law enforcement officials in Michigan informed Wrigley his office is investigating one of the most violent gangs in Detroit.
It’s possible more indictments could be announced in the coming days, Wrigley said. The investigation remains active.
Wrigley said his office is making a significant impact on preventing further drug trafficking in North Dakota by "cutting the head off" of criminal enterprises. The objective is not to stack up defendants in prison but have the largest impact possible, he added.
"We have very much, very intentionally drawn a line in the dirt, and the Reub gang is on the wrong side of that," he said.