FARGO, N.D. — A team of investigators, led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and prosecutors were recognized Wednesday for their work on Operation Denial, a criminal investigation of a trans-national opioid trafficking organization.

Acting Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Uttam Dhillon recognized the team with its “Administrator’s Award for Outstanding Group Achievement” at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

This is the first time an investigation in North Dakota has received this prestigious honor.

HSI leads the team that includes the following agencies: DEA, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Narcotics Task Force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Portland (Oregon) Police Bureau, IRS’s Criminal Investigations Division, Portland (Oregon) High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Interdiction Task Force, Oregon State Police, and Grand Forks (North Dakota) Police Department.

This case came to the attention of law enforcement as part of Operation Denial, an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation into the international trafficking of fentanyl and other lethal drugs. The case was significantly aided by the national and international coordination led by the multi-agency Special Operations Division (S.O.D.) near Washington, D.C., as part of Operation Deadly Merchant. This investigation started in North Dakota Jan. 3, 2015, with the overdose death in Grand Forks of 18-year-old Bailey Henke. To date, 32 defendants have been charged in this investigation.

The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

U.S. Attorney Christopher C. Myers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Kerin for the District of Oregon, and Trial Attorney Adrienne Rose of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic & Dangerous Drug Section are prosecuting these cases.