Austin man facing drug charges in Williston, N.D.

Published 10:56 am Thursday, March 17, 2016

By Elizabeth Hackenburg

The Williston Herald

WILLISTON, N.D. — An Austin native is facing charges in Williams County, North Dakota, for alleged ties to a Chicago-based heroin ring investigators say is responsible for a series of overdoses in Williston, North Dakota.



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Tanner Nielsen, 22, of Williston and formerly of Austin, and Sylvester McCurry, 21, of Chicago, the alleged head of the operation, have both been charged with conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance. Mariah Slater, 21, of Williston is accused of buying heroin to sell to local users from Nielsen, and moving on to purchase from McCurry after Nielsen was jailed on unrelated drug charges last November.

Slater allegedly sold heroin in Williston. The Bureau of Criminal Investigation traced a string of overdoses to the laced heroin Nielsen and McCurry were selling.

The drug ring, known for selling “China White,” a pure form of heroin that investigators say was laced with fentanyl, a powerful painkiller, is alleged to be responsible for 10 overdoses, one of which was fatal, that took place over an eight-day span in January. The victims were found in homes, motels and cars across Williston. They’d all lost consciousness immediately after injecting heroin.

An arrest warrant was issued in February for Slater for conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, a Class AA felony.

Johnny Thompson, 35, of Williston, who was arrested in February, allegedly sold the drug to a Williston man who was treated for an overdose on Jan. 5 and was found dead of another apparent overdose the next day.

He is charged with conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, along with Timothy Amundson, 31, of Williston, who was arrested in late January. Amundson, using McCurry as his source of heroin, allegedly sold the drug to other overdose victims.

As of February, police were still seeking Jamelle Edwards, 22, of Chicago, for his role in the drug ring. Edwards is suspected of selling laced heroin along with McCurry in Williston.

—The Austin Daily Herald contributed to this report.