Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Volunteer Was Key Figure Unwinding Cartel

Posted by Chivis Martinez for Borderland Beat,  written By DAVE KOLPACK, Associated Press

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — After more than 70 convictions, North Dakota authorities say they've largely dismantled a violent Mexican drug cartel in an investigation that drew in hundreds of agents over a dozen years. But no investigator may have had more to do with their success, they say, than one workaholic lawyer-turned lawman who did almost all his work for free.

Brad Berg helped connect a drug dealer from Mexico who set up shop in North Dakota to the Arelleno Felix cartel and several of the organization's key players. Now that the case is mostly closed, except for one accused hit man fighting extradition to the U.S., Berg is winning praise from his peers in the wake of documents recently being unsealed in the case.

Berg undertook much of the arduous research in the massive drug conspiracy being tried in federal court in North Dakota. He spent weeks at a time in southern California, working with drug agents there, interviewing suspects and examining gruesome crime scenes. He learned Spanish and read Mexican newspapers on a daily basis. One of the big breaks in the case came when Berg fingered a leading cartel member through his code name.

Drug agents in San Diego quickly discovered that Berg's intimate knowledge of the drug ring was invaluable, California Department of Justice agent Steve Duncan said.

He was telling us stuff we didn't know. He opened doors for us in our case and led us to a new group of people," Duncan said. "We couldn't believe how organized he was. He had access to all the information, all the reports. He had spreadsheets. He had instant credibility."

What Duncan didn't know is that Berg worked for free from the time he began his law enforcement career in 1995 until his retirement in 2013. Berg estimated that he donated more than 25,000 hours to drug enforcement that would likely equal $1 million in pay and benefits.

"I have never heard of anyone doing the job for free," said Chris Myers, the U.S. attorney from North Dakota and lead prosecutor in the drug cartel case. "That is what makes Brad so special."

"It becomes an obsession," Berg said of his cartel crusade. "And not always a welcome one."

Law enforcement was the last of several ventures for Berg, who has been a farm equipment dealer, real estate broker, farmer and finally a lawyer — the profession he liked the least.

He gave it up to spend more time with his wife and children. Then he went looking for a charitable activity and chose law enforcement, which Berg can explain only in that he thought it was "something I could do."

Now retired and living out of state, the 65-year-old Berg launched his final career as a volunteer in the Cass County sheriff's reserve program in Fargo and was eventually named commander of the group. At 51 he went to the police academy and joined the West Fargo Police Department. He said he got valuable experience serving arrest warrants, which taught him how to find suspects and gain a rapport with criminals, and landed the nickname "Rainman" for his quirky memory and his ability to solve complex puzzles and riddles.

"He's just terribly intelligent. Almost autistic," former West Fargo Police Chief Arland Rasmussen said. "He can reel off names, dates, numbers."

James Fontaine, a California prosecutor, highlighted Berg's investigative skills during a hearing in the Arelleno Felix case. Fontaine noted that Berg read daily law enforcement bulletins detailing activities of Mexican cartels, including each day's homicides, major arrests and other illegal activities. Fontaine pointed out that Berg would laboriously translate crime articles from Mexican newspapers.

Berg's work on the case began in 2005 when Rasmussen recommended him for a Drug Enforcement Administration task force. The group was in the middle of a federal investigation dubbed Operation Speed Racer when Jorge "Sneaky" Arandas, who moved from Tijuana to the Red River Valley to sell drugs, ordered the killing of a Minnesota man over payment for 5 pounds of methamphetamine. Berg, one of the lead investigators, helped track the hit to the Arelleno Felix gang and eventually began working with drug agents in San Diego.

Berg tried to retire in 2009, but it lasted less than a year. He was called back by drug force investigators near the end of the drug war between the Arelleno Felix cartel and the Sinaloa cartel led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the notorious drug kingpin extradited to the U.S. in January.

Later, Berg was an expert witness in the case against three members of the Arelleno Felix cartel accused in a foiled murder-for-hire plot. While on the stand for that case in 2011, Berg reeled off the names of lieutenants in the organization, including nicknames such as El Nalgon, Cotorro, Chollo, El Pit, El Gus, El Teo and Five-Four.

Berg went on to conduct training for officers investigating drug trafficking and wrote a document called "A Short History of the Arellano-Felix Organization," which has been used by agents in investigations and prosecutions.

Berg said he spends most of his time these days making furniture, researching and writing his family history, and spending as much time as possible with his eight grandchildren. He's agreed to return to Fargo should the accused hit man, Juan Francisco Sillas-Rocha, come to trial.

"We do look forward to the day when he is extradited from Mexico to face justice in a courtroom in Fargo," Myers said. "That will be a satisfying day."


  1. Great read Chivis! Mr. Berg please join the forum.


    1. Mica, I have it on good source that Mr. Berg is a faithful follower of BB. :)

    2. Chivis . Thanks for the story . Berg is a true American hero . There may be plenty with his constitution of values and morals but few with a mind like his to go with it . Thanks Berg

  2. its good to know that there are still some good, passionate folks who don't do it for $ or personal job title agenda...we need more real men like this in this world of ours!

  3. I remember reading about the Speed Racer case in 2011, when Juan Rocha Sillas' people were arrested in Palmdale. And I read this sometime last year, looking for more pieces in the puzzle.

    This was Sillas main success in CAF, to open the line in NK, he was the min one sending shipments, this is how he made his way, in the mid 2000's, before the Teo/Inge war.

    Thanks for posting.

  4. Wow, just wow !
    Proves that one person CAN make a difference, in this case a BIG difference.
    Thank you, Mr Berg !
    Plus more kudos to Steve Duncan, good job on Nightline.

    1. @1239: you really think so!? Please explain, was the flow of drugs reduced or do we still have more, cheaper and stronger drugs than ever on our streets and in our communities?

      Did he help reduce the violence or is the bloodbath and mass-slaugther in Mexico going on unabated?

      Mr. Berg surely followed his conviction and tried to do good without pursuing personal gain which is highly commendable, but dont kid yourself in believing that what he did had any positive impact on solving the real problem which is rooted in demand, poverty and corruption.

      Note that the outrageous profits possible by illicit drugs is what make the corruption possible and only legalization will take the corruptive power out of drugs.

      Only prevention and treatment will reduce demand.

    2. 6:12 are you serious? of course it has an impact. imagine no law and order, how worse would it be.

      If you were expecting that Mr. Berg's extraordinary action was suppose to take all drugs off the street then you are apart from reality.

      Prevention? and treatment is a failed method by more than a hundred years. Study the history.

      and what are you personally doing?

    3. Yeah, big case, what is in Dakota,
      tres venados y some buffalos?

    4. I happen to know there is a huge drug problem in N Dakota and probably
      South too. Boom towns have sprung up all around the oil developments and pipelines , not to mention the Native American Reservations , not to mention 10 months of winter. It is BAD. Do some research.

    5. Me Berg and the AUSA Chris Meyer investigated and prosecuted their case to the fullest. They had their murders and all the other drama that goes on in the big cities. They shared their intelligence with other districts to make other cases stronger and their expertise saved lives in San Diego, Los Angeles and other larger cities. They sent a powerful message to the low-life traffickers. They could have prosecuted Fernando Sanchez-Arellano and others, but they didn’t want to show up their weak counterparts in the Southern District of California. Drugs are everywhere and we need great investigators everywhere. North Dakota and Fargo kicked ass!

  5. Cases such as these are always group efforts, no individual agent can claim credit for them. My heroes are the agents in San Diego who worked tirelessly and, often under difficult circumstances, to make these cases stick.

    1. Spoken like a true hero!

      Mr. Berg, the term hero has diminished with its over usage, and those deemed "hero" beaming at their greatness. Of course you are correct that it is a group effort. But to be involved in such an integral manner, just to make a difference is exceptional.

      I was hoping we would hear from you. Thank you for your service sir..


    2. Hey Mister Berg, try The Berghoff in Chicago!
      Heros never feel they are doing anything but "the normal", others deman the spotlight and credits for nothing.

    3. Mr Berg, you may be part of a group effort but you are also a big part of the solution not part of the problem.
      We have plenty of folks out there like you, all unsung heroes, who get up every day and do something , anything POSITIVE for those around them.
      Thank you so much and really glad to know you are a BB follower.

  6. Remember the old adage “ Think Globally , Act Locally “ ?
    Learned that from my favorite teacher ever in 7th grade.
    Still thank Mrs Lozen for that.
    Both she and her husband got very involved in local politics in my home town, a mostly personally sacrificial and thankless job. Truly special people like Mr Berg who have “ a calling”.

  7. well if you are reading mr. berg, herion, cocaine both in powder an crack form, meth and marijuana are readily available 5 min from my house. With these cockroaches u kill one and five more are ready to take his place. The only true fix is legalization with government ownership of the whole buisness. no privatization of anything including marijuana. with all the profits going toward free college education and massive drug education and prevention programs along with rehab for addicts who want to quit. The narco economy of Mexico would collapse and these cartels would kill each other off for control of Mexicos domestic market. This is the only true fix to this social plague

  8. Mr Berg is the true meaning of making America great again.
    Thank you!

    1. knowing that mr.Berg follows makes me want to comment and be even more faithful to BB

  9. mr berg for president


    1. 1:20 that easy pancho, but ah'd choose to go for the banksters and the money launderers, they are the modern day pharisees and the Philostines that would crucify the Redeemer again in a jiffy if he would just think of not being their Capitalist Jesus anymore because he forgot what happened to him the last time...
      Revenge against the poor offends Christ the Crucified me thinks.

  11. Shit it is everywhere ! There is now place that it cant be gotten . Dublin texas about 300 miles north of del rio on 377 . about 3000 people . Feds have took major transporters out of there over and over through the years . Same with every little town with about the same proximity to the border. They all have their share of traffickers making the run . In particular this little town has a furniture store selling furniture and other "imports" from mexico right down by the red light on the south east side of main street , playing loud music . Dope is everywhere !

  12. @AnonymousJanuary 14, 2018 at 1:20 AM
    Life sentences and death penalty in Mexico would only work if there was no corruption. If it was instituted it would only serve for those in power to use against their enemies or adversaries. Government and ruling cartels alike.


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