‘New strategy’ for a ‘new scourge’: Amid 3 more fentanyl arrests, Fargo plans to boost drug unit
By Rick Abbott
Published May 16, 2016 - The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead
FARGO – Amid the growing epidemic of illicit opiate use and continuing overdoses in the region, multiple law enforcement agencies announced Monday a redoubling of efforts in tackling the problem – and another round of arrests.
The Fargo Police Department will beef up its narcotics unit to help with an increasing number of cases, Chief David Todd said at a news conference Monday, May 16, at police headquarters.
Three officers will be “re-allocated” and moved to the unit, increasing its membership from the current four detectives, Todd said. A Drug Enforcement Administration officer also helps the unit.
The change is effective through the summer, after which the move will be evaluated, when Todd should know more about the department’s 2017 budget.
U.S. Attorney Chris Myers also announced three recent arrests of men suspected of possessing or distributing fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate that can be extremely dangerous to its users and anyone who touches it.
Arrested were Brandon Beyer, Chase Fliginger and Christian Harris. The men are in their late teens or early 20s.
On Thursday, May 12, a confidential informant met with Fliginger and Harris and bought a water bottle believed to contain liquid fentanyl for $80, according to court documents.
After the deal, authorities stopped a vehicle with Fliginger and Harris inside about 8 p.m. Thursday in the area of 23rd Street South and DeMores Circle in Fargo.
A juvenile female also in the vehicle told a Cass County Drug Task Force officer that she, Fliginger and Harris provided fentanyl to three different people that day.
The girl also said the fentanyl the confidential informant bought came from Beyer.
When interviewed, Harris said he knew Beyer and sent a Snapchat message asking for fentanyl to Beyer in the presence of a narcotics officer. Harris got a message back from Beyer, saying “$140,” according to an affidavit.
That was enough for officers to get a search warrant for Beyer’s apartment, at 1430 35th St. S. The search turned up suspected fentanyl in liquid form, suspected powdered fentanyl and hundreds of pills police believe to be Xanax.
Beyer’s roommate told a drug officer that he believed Beyer bought fentanyl on the Internet and had the packages shipped to an unknown address.
Beyer, Fliginger and Harris were charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, which can carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
The new charges are among a string of recent federal cases involving the alleged distribution of opiates in Fargo-Moorhead, where authorities believe at least 10 people have died in 2016 from overdoses on opioids such as heroin and fentanyl.
Greg Alan Krutsinger, 38, was earlier accused of selling heroin from his south Moorhead apartment, an investigation spurred by a nonfatal overdose in a Fargo trailer park. He was recently indicted in federal court and remains detained.
Tyrone Wilburn was also recently indicted after allegedly possessing with intent to distribute both heroin and furanyl fentanyl in North Dakota and Minnesota. He’s accused of selling heroin mixed with fentanyl to an undercover Fargo police detective.
In response to the continuing problem, numerous local, state, and federal law enforcement officials were on hand for the news conference Monday.
“We are making it clear, if you are selling opiates, in particular fentanyl, you will face federal prosecution, aggressive state prosecution in this battle,” Myers said.
Myers noted a new strategy for what he called a “new scourge that’s hitting our streets and harming so many people.”
All local, federal and state law enforcement agencies met last week to develop a four-part strategy, including a strong message to drug traffickers, continued work with local, state, federal agencies and various community groups.
“We work for this community, and we see an epidemic coming at us like I don’t think we’ve ever seen in the drug world before,” Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said.
Todd, Laney, Myers and others said drug traffickers looking to come to Fargo-Moorhead to make quick cash should think twice.
“If you’re going to deal, we’re coming for you. You’re not going to peddle your stuff here,” Laney said.
“We’re dealing with a different threat in our community, and that’s why law enforcement is dealing with this threat in a different way,” Myers said.
As law enforcement increases its focus on the issue of opiate abuse and trafficking, the number of fatal and non-fatal overdoses continues.
“We’ve had some overdoses in our community and those overdoses have continued to happen,” Todd said.
On Sunday, May 8, and Monday, May 9, there were four overdoses, Todd said. Those people were able to saved either by CPR or Narcan, an opiate overdose reversal drug.
Narcan, and its generic form of naloxone, are carried by paramedics at F-M Ambulance and by Fargo firefighters. The drug can save the life of someone having an overdose, but is not always effective depending on the extent of that overdose. Sometimes multiple doses have to be used, and even that’s not always enough to save a user.
Another way to save the life of someone having an overdose is to perform CPR. Most often, opiate overdoses cause the user’s respiratory system to slow down and, in some cases, stop, which results in death.