WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — The blood-drenched man had survived a brutal attack: Beaten with brass knuckles, shocked with a stun gun, slashed with a razor blade, then dumped 40 miles away in Montana, he staggered to a farmhouse for help. His path eventually led authorities back to a quiet backyard in this oil boom town.
What they uncovered was a large-scale methamphetamine ring that had found a home in a state long known for its small-town solitude, its slow pace and peaceful pastures.
The members of this violent gang were all relative newcomers to Williston. They called themselves "The Family," the feds say, and were holed up in a few campers tucked behind an innocent-looking, white-frame house. They had plenty of firepower, too: One of the men had an arsenal of 22 weapons.
Authorities say several "Family" members had abducted and planned to kill one of their own, seeking to enforce their code of silence out of fear he'd spill the group's secrets. They assaulted him in a camper in Williston, stuffed him into a plastic-lined car trunk, then beat him again after he escaped. He was left for dead in a Montana field. He wound up, instead, in a North Dakota hospital, telling the FBI his story.
The result: Seven guilty pleas. Prison sentences of up to 20 years. And the dismantling of a drug trafficking ring that sold meth for more than a year in one of the fastest-growing corners of America.
The oil boom in the Bakken shale fields has touched off an explosion of growth and wealth on this remote wind-swept prairie. Big money is raining down in small towns. Oil rigs light up the night sky. But the bonanza suddenly flourishing here has also brought with it a dark side: a growing trade in meth, heroin, cocaine and marijuana, the shadow of sinister cartels and newfound violence.