- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - An 18-year-old man pleaded not guilty Thursday to a federal charge involving the overdose deaths of two people in the Grand Forks area. More people are expected to be charged in the case.

Kain Schwandt is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver controlled substances resulting in serious bodily injury and death. He faces life in prison without parole.

The indictment has not been unsealed but U.S. Magistrate Judge Alice Senechal told Schwandt, who appeared via video from Grand Forks, that the conspiracy charge involves the distribution of fentanyl, heroin, Xanax, Ecstasy and marijuana. Three other people allegedly got sick on drugs supplied by Schwandt, according to the charge read by the judge.

Schwandt told Senechal he understood the charge and the possible penalties.

“I would like to enter a plea of not guilty, your honor,” Schwandt said.

A trial date has not been set. Schwandt was released to the custody of his mother and ordered to follow a dozen conditions, including the promise to appear in court for his next hearing.

Neil Fulton, head of the federal public defender’s office in North Dakota and South Dakota, said it was too early to comment on the proceedings.

“We have just taken the case and are commencing our investigation,” Fulton said. “We will know more about the case as it progresses.”

Federal prosecutors declined to comment.

Grand Forks police announced last month they were investigating several overdose cases involving powdered fentanyl, a powerful synthetic morphine. Police believe the substance played a part in the Jan. 3 overdose death of Bailey Henke, 18, of Grand Forks, and decided to investigate other reported overdoses.

Schwandt, the first person to face federal charges in the case, was ordered to refrain from contacting any defendants or witnesses.

Schwandt told Senechal that he completed school through the ninth grade. He said he was unemployed but has “a job lined up.”

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