"Operation Pale Mule" led to arrest of several Taft residents in Montana on drug trafficking charges in late March

The law enforcement sweep in Taft last spring was only a small part of a major FBI operation called “Operation Pale Mule ” at aimed at curbing drugs trafficking in the oilfields of Montana and North Dakota, according to multiple source.

Media accounts and information from federal law enforcement officials in Montana indicate that at least five Taft residents have been charged in connection with the operation conducted in late March in several locations in Taft and Montana.

Only one arrest in Taft was announced in connection with the raids, conducted by the FBI along with state, county and city law enforcement officers.

However, in Montana, the United States Attorney's Office announced that 11 people, including several from Taft, were arrested and face federal drug trafficking charges.

The Taft residents arrested in Montana were identified as :

• Casey Patrick Fleming, 41

• Desiree Margarita Jimenez, 30

• Kathrine Sue Neel aka Catherine Sue Neel, 49

• Cody William Simpson, 25

All are charged with conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute.

Also arrested was a former Taft resident now living in Billings, Brandon Scott Robey, 38. He was also charged with conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute

Three Montana residents were charged with conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute as well

They were identified as David Lee Barnard Jr., 43, of Billings, David Lee Goffena, 45, and Kirsta Elaine Goffena, 38, both of Roundup.

Three Los Angeles men were also charged in the case.

They were identified as Mario Albert Villegas, 31, David Delcarmen, 32 and, Gerardo Lopez Martinez, 35.

Bozeman, Montana television station KZBK quoted a federal indictment as saying Casey Fleming sent methamphetamine to the Goffenas, and in January and February, Barnard Billings obtained multi-ounce quantities of meth from the Goffenas in Roundup.

Barnard then distributed to Robey, who then sold the drugs, court documents allege.
The only person arrested in Taft in connection with the operation was David Edward Hampton Jr., 34.

Hampton was arrested on March 25 and indicted by a federal grand jury two days alter on charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, attempted distribution of methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and heroin.

Federal law enforcement officials allege Hampton conspired with others to distribute pound quantities of methamphetamine which he secured in California for distribution in South Dakota.

They said Hampton would regularly send methamphetamine to South Dakota through the mail.

Hampton is being charged in the Eastern District of California.

The others are charged in the District of Montana.

“Operation Pale Mule” was part of a larger operation, Project Safe Bakken, aimed at curbing drug trafficking and use in the Bakken oilfields, federal officials said.

Project Safe Bakken, announced in the fall of 2013, is a cooperative effort between federal and state prosecutors and federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in Montana and North Dakota.