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East Grand Forks man pleads guilty to forming drug-trafficking ring

FARGO -- A 26-year-old man who used to be in charge of packaging at a North Dakota sugar plant pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to organizing a ring that supplied drugs across two states.

Noah Bergland

FARGO -- A 26-year-old man who used to be in charge of packaging at a North Dakota sugar plant pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to organizing a ring that supplied drugs across two states.

Noah Bergland of East Grand Forks entered his plea to money laundering and continuing criminal enterprise charges. Investigators, who dubbed the case Operation Noah's Ark, said Bergland was the leader of an operation that has resulted in 19 indictments.

The plea deal calls for Bergland to forfeit $250,000 in drug sale proceeds. His drug-trafficking ring supplied heroin, cocaine, marijuana and Ecstasy across North Dakota and Minnesota, authorities said.

Numerous deposits, wires and transfers were directed into his bank account as part of the conspiracy, according to prosecutors.

"This enterprise generated an enormous amount of money through the distribution of controlled substances," Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Myers said during Tuesday's hearing.

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Neil Fulton, who heads the federal public defender's office in the Dakotas, had no comment.

Investigators said the drugs were picked up in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and elsewhere and sold to distributors and customers in the North Dakota cities of Fargo, Grand Forks and Williston, and the Minnesota cities of Alexandria and Thief River Falls.

A number of others indicted in the case are from in and around the Red River Valley, including from Grand Forks; East Grand Forks; Roseau, Minn.; and Moorhead.

Bergland, who had been in charge of packaging at the American Crystal Sugar Co. plant in Drayton, faces up to 20 years in federal prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 15.

The criminal enterprise charge can carry a mandatory life prison sentence, but Myers said Tuesday that the quantity of drugs in question doesn't meet that standard.

All of the remaining defendants are charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances. Thirteen of them face money-laundering charges, and nine of those defendants also are accused of illegally using cell phones and money wiring services to support the operation.

Court documents accuse the defendants of distributing more than 5,000 grams of cocaine and more than 100 grams of heroin.

"We've identified many sources of supply for these drugs," Myers said.

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Herald Staff Writer Chris Bieri contributed to this report.

The Forum and the Herald are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

Related Topics: EAST GRAND FORKS
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