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Taliban, Young N' Thuggin' Gangs Found Rich Drug Profits in Northern Minnesota

Addicts in places like St. Cloud had little choice but to pay inflated prices.

Addicts in places like St. Cloud had little choice but to pay inflated prices.

Starting around 2012, a pair of north Minneapolis gangs directed their capitalist ambitions northward to St. Cloud, Fargo, and Duluth. According to police, Taliban and Young N' Thuggin' (YNT) members were angling to cultivate new markets for crack and heroin.

What they found in areas a few hours north were unchallenged markets prime for the taking.

See also: Northern Minnesota "Spice" dealers charged $50 an ounce, charges say

As a result, the drug gangs were able to virtually name their price, peddling crack at retail numbers pushing double what they were able to fetch back home.

"Other than maybe the small independent [dealer], there was nobody else dealing crack up here," says Sgt. Steve Soyka, commander of the Central Minnesota Violent Offender Task Force. "We found they were the only ones involved in that kind of significant drug dealing activity for no other reason than they were willing to make the drive up here."

Seven suspected members of the Taliban and YNT gangs were indicted last week on charges of running a drug smuggling enterprise based in north Minneapolis with tendrils to to St. Cloud, Fargo, and Duluth. The 29-count indictment was the result of a four-year probe.

According to police, the gangs were able to sell crack in St. Cloud for $250, when it retailed for only $150 in the Twin Cities.

"I liken what they were doing to having seven gas stations in a three-block area," says Soyka. "If you want to increase prices and there's nowhere else to buy gas, that's what you're going to have to pay. For those people addicted, using, whatever it might be, they either had to pay what these guys were charging or be forced to drive to the Twin Cities to get it cheaper."

It's a strategy similar to one employed by Chicago gangs from years past, according to Soyka.

"Back in the late '90s," he says, "members of the Gangster Disciples, who were bringing crack cocaine into the Minneapolis area, started moving some of their product north because, just like in this most recent example, they found out that as a group, they were the only ones dealing crack in any sort of volume. And because of that, they could charge whatever price they wanted."

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