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7 Minneapolis gang members indicted on crack cocaine charges

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Updated: 5 p.m. | Posted: 1:23 p.m.

A federal grand jury has indicted members of two violent north Minneapolis street gangs on charges of distributing crack cocaine in the Twin Cities, St. Cloud, Duluth and Fargo, N.D.

Prosecutors say gang members built a lucrative drug market in outstate Minnesota because they could make more money selling crack and heroin in areas where drugs are in short supply, when compared to Minneapolis. They say a rock of crack cocaine can sell for twice as much outside of the Twin Cities.

According to the indictment, members of the Young N Thuggin and Taliban gangs work together. The men charged in the indictment on drug charges include Louis Lee Frasier Banks, 25; Carnel Lavel Harrison, 26; Dejuan Pierre Darkyse Washington, 23; Terrell Vonshay Roberson, 18; Laquedrick Lemel As-Sidiq, 25; Donte Tramayne Smith, 25; and Cortez Davon Blakemore, 24.

All but Smith are in custody.

U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said members of the gangs also use guns to violently protect their operation. He said the investigation will weaken the gangs.

"Every single case that we bring against gang members makes a dent and every time we do this that dent gets larger," he said. "So we're not done."

Minneapolis city council president Barb Johnson said she is hopeful the investigation will mean people who live in the north side neighborhoods she represents will be able to rest a little easier.

"Every week we get the map of shots fired across the city, and north Minneapolis has this very disproportionate share," Johnson said. "So I think getting some of these people off the street will decrease that number."

Last year, Luger's office indicted members of two other Minneapolis gangs — the 1-9 Dipset and the Stick-Up Boys — in a gun trafficking conspiracy.

Law enforcement authorities said that, over the last several years, members of the 1-9 Dipset and the Stick-Up Boys have been embroiled in a bloody feud with members of YNT and Taliban gangs. They say six gang members have been murdered and five others have been wounded during the violent conflict.

Blakemore, one of the men indicted in the drug distribution conspiracy, was shot and wounded last spring by a member of the 1-9 Dipset who will be sentenced for the shooting later this month, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office confirmed Wednesday.

Minneapolis police commander Catherine Johnson said the alleged members of YNT and the Taliban charged in the drug distribution conspiracy are well known to police officers.   

"Seven men indicted in this case have collectively been arrested in the city of Minneapolis more than 150 times," Johnson said. "They've been involved in more than 40 cases involving either a recovered firearm or a shooting incident."