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U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley meets with The Forum editorial board Wednesday, May 29, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

U.S. prosecutor Wrigley names management team, passes over Myers

FARGO — Drew Wrigley, reprising his role as U.S. Attorney for the District of North Dakota, has named a management team that is topped by Nicholas Chase, who has prosecuted major financial fraud and identity theft cases among other crimes.

Wrigley made the announcement Wednesday, May 29, almost six weeks after he was confirmed by the Senate. He has named Jennifer Klemetsrud-Puhl as his criminal enforcement chief, and Kent Rockstad as his civil litigation chief.

All three are longtime assistant U.S. attorneys whom Wrigley hired earlier when serving as U.S. attorney for North Dakota during the administration of President George W. Bush.

Wrigley passed over Chris Myers, who held the role of U.S. attorney after Tim Purdon, an Obama appointee, left office, until Wrigley could be confirmed, for his management team.

“This is not out of the ordinary,” Wrigley said when asked why he didn’t elect to have Myers, who had served as first assistant before assuming the interim role as U.S. attorney, return to the position. First assistants typically serve for a few years, Wrigley said.

Myers has handled high-profile drug prosecutions, including an international drug ring that led to several fentanyl overdose deaths, and was recognized last year as recipient of the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Leadership in the Prevention of Transnational Crime Award.

As U.S. attorney for North Dakota, Wrigley heads an office of 62 employees, including 26 lawyers located in offices in Fargo and Bismarck.

“I believe it to be the best law firm in the state, region,” Wrigley said. “It’s our job to keep that going.”

Wrigley said Chase has distinguished himself in his prosecution work, including three recognitions from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Last year, for instance, Chase prosecuted a Nigerian native who was convicted of stealing thousands of identities in a massive credit card fraud scheme. In 2017, he prosecuted a transnational organized crime “lottery scam” that resulted in the extradition of eight suspects from Jamaica in a fraud that bilked at least 90 mostly elderly U.S. residents out of more than $5.7 million.

“One of the first people I hired is Nick Chase,” Wrigley said, calling him “one of the most extraordinary lawyers to come through the office.”

Klemetsrud-Puhl’s focus as a prosecutor has been in the areas of child sexual predators, internet luring and human trafficking. She had been nominated by Obama to be a federal appeals judge and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but her nomination never went to the Senate floor.

During his first stint as U.S. attorney, Wrigley led the prosecution of Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr., for the 2007 abduction and murder of Dru Sjodin, a University of North Dakota student. Rodriguez, who was sentenced to death, continues to appeal his case.

“It just goes on and on and on and on,” Wrigley said of Rodriguez’s appeals. “We will defend that verdict till the very end,” he said, predicting the death penalty ultimately will be carried out.