Alleged Highs members charged in expanding gang crackdown in Minneapolis

man with glasses in pinstripe suit talks
Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger announces the indictment of 13 alleged members of the Highs street gang in Minneapolis.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

The continuing law enforcement crackdown on Minneapolis street gangs has resulted in the indictments of 13 additional people. Federal prosecutors allege in indictments unsealed Wednesday that the defendants are affiliated with the Highs gang and trafficked large amounts of fentanyl.

A federal grand jury brought the first round of indictments in May against 45 members of the Highs, Lows, and Bloods. In August, another 14 defendants were charged.

The initial rounds of indictments focused primarily on gang-related gun crimes. The newest charges allege that members of the Highs ran an extensive fentanyl trafficking operation in conjunction with Arizona-based suppliers.

U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said that gang members flew from Minneapolis to Arizona to pick up fentanyl from co-conspirators affiliated with Mexican cartels, and also sent pills through the mail. 

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“As alleged in our indictments, the Highs criminal organization just based on what we have uncovered in this investigation is responsible for distributing over 11 kilograms of fentanyl,” he said. “The DEA estimates that this amount of fentanyl can kill hundreds of thousands of people.” 

Luger said that investigators recovered 11.6 kilograms of fentanyl along with three dozen firearms and more than $218,000 in cash. 

Two of the defendants were arrested Wednesday morning in Arizona. Officers in Minnesota apprehended the others in coordinated raids. All remain in custody. 

One named in the indictment, Leneal Frazier Jr., 22 had been charged previously but now faces new counts of kidnapping and assault related to Highs gang activity. 

The new indictments bring the total number of defendants in the case to 73. Seventeen have been convicted — most after pleading guilty, though some have gone to trial.

Early on, investigators were hesitant to make a direct connection between the arrests and the relative drop in violent crime in Minneapolis. But Police Chief Brian O’Hara said that he’s confident that arresting “the worst of the worst” is having a positive effect.

“Across Minneapolis as of today, all indications of gun violence are down by one third,” O’Hara said. “There have been 20 fewer people murdered. There have been 163 fewer people shot this year, and more than 2,500 fewer shots fired calls this year.”

O’Hara added that in north Minneapolis, gun violence and the number of shooting victims fell to a level not seen since 2012. 

Luger said that the enforcement effort is continuing and that prosecutors expect to bring charges against additional gang members.