Members of a Fargo-based drug ring were quick to draw guns or swing fists wrapped in brass knuckles to collect on drug debts.
They sold pounds of meth, cocaine and marijuana to juveniles and other users in the Fargo-Moorhead area since January 2002.
Some wore matching "Shady" brand jackets handed out by 28-year-old ring leader, Kelly James McCracken of Fargo.
Those are some of the claims in a 30-page indictment filed in Fargo's federal court. A federal grand jury charged 18 people, mostly Fargo-area residents, with being part of a drug conspiracy, weapons violations and witness tampering.
The grand jury returned the 22-count indictment Feb. 17, but the criminal complaint remained sealed until late Wednesday.
Court papers describe McCracken and his cousin, Daniel Ray McCracken, 28, as the ring's leaders. Among other charges, the McCrakens are accused of operating a "continuing criminal enterprise," which carries a mandatory life prison sentence if convicted.
The McCrakens and Tyler Joseph Berglund, 23, also are charged with carrying guns.
All of the defendants are accused of being part of a drug conspiracy.
Kelly McCracken and Tara Marie Maladecki, 25, Fargo, also are charged with threatening a witness, the indictment says.
U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley wouldn't release any information not included in the indictment, which didn't include addresses for the defendants. More people may be charged as part of the drug ring, he said.
Wrigley wouldn't disclose the quantity of drugs that investigators say they've uncovered in the investigation.
The indictment unsealed Wednesday is the fourth drug ring conspiracy case handled by federal prosecutors in Wrigley's Fargo office since 2000.
Federal prosecutors have won convictions against more than 20 defendants charged in the cases.
"We're committed to pushing these things beyond what looks like a pretty good dope case," Wrigley said. "We're going to follow these as far as we can."
Other defendants named in the indictment are: Javier Reyes, 29, Danielle Marie Dvorsak, 22, Michael Joseph Zerr, 30, Lester Glenn Holbrook, 31, Jerad Duane Egge, 26, Heath Myron Nickel, 31, Kristin Dawn Hettervig, 19, Jeremy Michael Zimmerman, 23, and Kathleen Ann Matuska, 43, all of Fargo; Matthew Henry Peterson, 19, West Fargo; Ryan Douglas Gilberston, 23, Moorhead; Keith Allen Brown, 21, Galesburg, N.D.; Kristen Beverly Jean Heille, 20, Colorado; and Chester Allen Clow, 36, unknown residence.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Zent at (701) 241-5526