Three Members of Drug Trafficking Ring on Red Lake Indian Reservation are Sentenced

Thursday, May 27th, 2010 at 9:59 am

Three members of a drug-trafficking ring responsible for selling cocaine and crack cocaine on the Red Lake Indian Reservation between 2007 and 2009 were sentenced today in federal court in Bemidji for their roles in that operation.

United States District Court Judge Donovan W. Frank sentenced Vanessa Marie Sagataw, age 24, to 30 months in federal prison on one count of using a telephone while participating in a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Susan Alisha Neadeau, age 25, was ordered to serve 18 months in prison on one count of conspiracy. And, Fawn Monike Neadeau, age 30, was sentenced to time served on one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine.

These three women, all of whom are from Red Lake, were indicted, along with three co-defendants, on May 11, 2009. Each of the women later pled guilty.

In their plea agreements, Fawn and Susan Neadeau, relatives of the ring’s leader, Marcus James Neadeau, admitted joining the drug ring prior to 2009. They also admitted selling drugs and transporting drugs from the Twin Cities to the Red Lake Indian Reservation. The plea agreement specifically noted that on March 15, 2009, the two were stopped by a Minnesota State trooper, who seized nine ounces of cocaine from them. According to Sagataw’s plea agreement, she arranged the sale of drugs via the phone on multiple occasions between January of 2007 and March of 2009. Sagataw is the wife of ring leader Marcus Neadeau.

The three co-defendants in this case already have been sentenced. Marcus James Neadeau, age 28, of Red Lake, was ordered to serve 240 months in federal prison on one count of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine. He was convicted of the charges following a federal trial, during which evidence was presented that proved he was the leader of the drug ring that served as a primary source of drugs on the Red Lake Reservation between 2007 and 2009. Trial evidence also showed he used his family and friends to deal those drugs. In all, Neadeau conspired with his dealers and others to distribute atleast 500 grams of cocaine and no fewer than 50 grams of crack cocaine during that two-year period.

Co-defendant Manuel Sagataw, age 23, of Red Lake, was sentenced on February 9, 2010, to 64 months in prison on one count of conspiracy. Sagataw pleaded guilty to that charge on August 21, 2009. In his plea agreement, he admitted joining the organization in early 2008. He also admitted obtaining drugs from Neadeau and then selling them.

Also on February 9, Natausha Rae Smith, age 26, of Bemidji, was sentenced to 15 months in prison on one count of conspiracy. Smith pleaded guilty on August 24, 2009. In her plea agreement, she admitted joining the organization in early 2008. She too admitted acquiring drugs from Neadeau and then selling them. She also admitted storing drugs.

This case resulted from an investigation conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Headwaters Safe Trails Task Force, with assistance from the Red Lake Tribal Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol.

The Headwaters Safe Trails Task Force, led by the FBI, is comprised of investigators from a number of local and tribal law enforcement agencies. The primary focus of the Task Force, which operates out of Bemidji, is to combat gun, drug, and gang crime in and around the Indian reservations of Northern Minnesota. Over the past several years, the Task Force, viewed as one of the most successful law enforcement task forces in the State, and has been credited with hundreds of arrests in its effort to establish and maintain safe communities in and around Northern Minnesota’s Indian Country.

The Red Lake Indian Reservation is subject to federal jurisdiction. As a result, serious crime is investigated and prosecuted at the federal level. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven L. Schleicher and Clifford B. Wardlaw.

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