- Associated Press - Monday, January 25, 2016

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - A federal judge on Monday gave two 19-year-old men prison sentences of more than three years for dealing a powerful synthetic drug that led to numerous overdoses and at least one death in northeastern North Dakota.

Kain Schwandt and David Noye Jr., both from Grand Forks, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. Authorities say the two men continued to deal powdered fentanyl after one of their customers died from an overdose.

“This is really as bad as it gets for a drug conspiracy,” U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson said after sentencing Schwandt to 42 months in prison and Noye to 39 months. “The first death was just sort of irrelevant in the way they conducted their business.”

Schwandt and Noye also were treated for overdoses at one point.

Their attorneys told Erickson the men have taken responsibility for their actions and are working hard at rehabilitation. Defense attorney Lynn Moen said Noye finished a year and a half of high school classes in about six months to earn his diploma.

The wide-ranging case includes a defendant from Portland, Oregon, who allegedly told authorities he could be the largest powdered fentanyl dealer in the United States. Another defendant is accused of operating a criminal enterprise while imprisoned in Canada that moved fentanyl and other similar substances from Canada and China to Florida, North Dakota and Oregon.

U.S. Attorney Chris Myers told the judge that it’s typical for a group of fentanyl users to designate one person to treat potential overdose victims with an antidote commonly known as Narcan.

“The scary part about it, that is part of the attraction to be involved in distributing and using these substances,” Myers said.

Schwandt’s attorney, Chris Lancaster, said fentanyl had such a strong hold on his client that “the simple decisions just stop.”

Erickson said he sentenced Noye to three fewer months than Schwandt because Noye’s effort at rehabilitation is “more significant.” Relatives of Noye testified that they didn’t like having him in their homes before the arrest, but there have been no problems since he began rehabilitation.

“He took it upon himself to find treatment,” his aunt, Jill Cormier, said. “For the first time in four years, I could tell he was committed.”

Schwandt apologized to the victims’ family members and said he made a mistake. Noye said he was ready to accept his punishment.

“I will end up being a better person for it,” Noye said.

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