Minneapolis gang members charged in fentanyl bust as part federal crime crackdown

More than a dozen Minneapolis gang members are facing charges in connection to a drug distribution scheme that spanned across the U.S.

According to an announcement made Wednesday, a total of 14 suspected gang members and associates have been arrested on charges of federal trafficking offenses that accuse them of bringing fentanyl to Minnesota to sell.

The defendants would fly from Arizona to Minnesota with fentanyl in their bags for the benefit of the "Highs" gang, authorities said Wednesday after announcing they had seized 11.6 kilos of fentanyl – amounting to roughly one million single doses of the drug.

Two of the 14 defendants lived in Arizona and acted as suppliers, while the remaining dozen acted as transporters and sellers, according to authorities.

"These charges illustrate one of the ways in which fentanyl is brought to Minnesota," said U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger on Wednesday. "Selling fentanyl in our communities is as deadly and brazen as the gun violence we have seen. As part of our operation, all of these defendants are now in custody."

Indictments previously unsealed in May 2023 charged 30 members and associates of the "Highs" and "Bloods" gangs with racketeering conspiracy (RICO Act) involving alleged murder, attempted murder, robbery, obstruction of justice, and drug trafficking.

In August, authorities announced an additional round of gang members arrested as part of the violent crime strategy between city police and federal agencies. 

To date, 73 gang members have been indicted for various charges.

Authorities have previously said that they are focused on "dismantling" three Minneapolis-based gangs: the Highs, the Lows, and the Bloods.

"The distribution of this highly dangerous drug on the streets of Minneapolis is essential to the business operation of the ‘Highs’ gang in Minneapolis," said Luger on Wednesday. "I’m proud that, through hard work and diligence, we have traced a source of supply."

The Highs have been operating since 2008 in north Minneapolis, mostly "congregating at specific businesses at West Broadway Avenue and Lyndale Avenue." Between April 2021 and September 2021, Highs and Lows gang members were allegedly involved in more than five murders, prosecutors say. 

The Minneapolis Bloods chapter has been around for "several decades," working on the south side of Minneapolis.

"When we announced the first round of arrests, we knew we would not allow violence to continue. We were serious then, and we’re serious now," Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara said in August following the initial arrest announcement. "These arrests represent our commitment to reducing tragedy and trauma that have plagued our neighborhoods for too long… These arrests won’t be the last, and they will continue."