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Meth wars: Gamboa had it all, witnesses say

Accused drug dealer Michael Gamboa was living large. The high school dropout carried $10,000 in his pocket, and drove pricey automobiles. He had a snowmobile and a speedboat.


Accused drug dealer Michael Gamboa was living large.

The high school dropout carried $10,000 in his pocket, and drove pricey automobiles.

He had a snowmobile and a speedboat. He furnished his automobile detailing shop in south Fargo with a big-screen television, a hot tub and a safe.

He had people to buy his clothes and run his errands.

The 27-year-old East Grand Forks, Minn., native had the attention of Minnesota's and North Dakota's drug world.


But the fast life came at a high cost to Gamboa and to many of those along for the ride, according to witnesses testifying in Gamoba's trial this week.

A twice-convicted drug dealer, Gamboa slept with a handgun and kept several firearms in his shop. He and his body guards, edgy from meth-induced paranoia, jumped from one Fargo motel to another, trying to stay a step ahead of police or anyone else who could be after them.

They dealt with dangerous people, "Mexicans" who delivered car loads of meth for distribution in North Dakota and Minnesota, according to court testimony Friday.

Gamboa's attorney, James Hovey of Grand Forks, implied Friday that his client was in business with an organized criminal gang called the Mexican Mafia.

Earlier in the trial, Hovey said his client was acting as an informant for police.

Prosecutors said Gamboa was not acting under the auspices of law enforcement.

Gamboa and some of his associates were constantly trying to root out police informants. Sometimes, when the stress was high, they violently turned on each other, according to court testimony.

But Gamboa's biggest cost may be his freedom.


Three men who say they were part of Gamboa's drug ring have already lost theirs.

Gamboa, two of his brothers -- Rolando and Edward -- and three other men distributed more than 100 pounds of meth in Fargo-Moorhead, Bismarck and Grand Forks, a source close to the investigation said.

Gamboa is charged with eight crimes, including drug trafficking and using firearms during drug trafficking. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

On Friday, the fifth day of Gamboa's trial, two men who have pleaded guilty in the case testified against the accused ring leader.

In exchange, Delwin Jo Whitelightning, 29, Bismarck, and James Nicholas Borkowski, 26, Grand Forks, hope to receive lighter sentences.

Cassidy Kyle Stich, 26, Grand Forks, also has pleaded guilty. He said he too will cooperate with prosecutors in hopes of leniency.

The three men have served prison sentences for prior convictions that include drug offenses.

Whitelightning said he met Gamboa and Borkowski in the North Dakota State Penitentiary.


Whitelightning said soon after his release in July 2001, he started selling meth for Gamboa in the Bismarck area.

He told the jury Friday he once saw some "Mexicans" drive into Gamboa's auto shop.

Once the overhead door closed, they took off the sport utility vehicle's front quarter panels and pulled out packages of meth, he said.

Borkowski, an "enforcer" for Gamboa, said he once saw a similar delivery at the shop.

Whitelightning and Borkowski said they didn't know how much meth they saw delivered.

Devon Anderson, who operated an auto body shop in the same building at 2705 5th Ave. S., said he saw about 30 pounds of meth stacked in Gamboa's safe.

Anderson said he started using meth once Gamboa and his men moved into the building.

A car pulled into the shop late one night and "large amounts of meth" were unloaded from under the back seat, Anderson told the jury.


He said Gamboa once pointed a gun at him and made him strip to see if he was wearing an electronic listening device.

Gamboa, he said, also broke his jaw and held him captive in the shop for two days.

Kandy Walter-Leach, a convicted drug dealer from Grand Forks, told the jury Thursday that she probably bought 80 pounds of meth from Gamboa since 1997.

Aaron Wayne Allen, an unindicted co-conspirator, told the jury Thursday that he and Gamboa made about five trips to St. Cloud, Minn., where they picked up 10 pounds of meth each time.

Police raided Gamboa's shop May 29. Inside they found nine guns, about a pound of meth and about $10,000.

Michael and Edward Gamboa were arrested in the building.

Edward and Rolando Gamboa, both of Grand Forks, are set to stand trial Jan. 21.

Stich, Whitelightning and Borkowski will be sentenced in March.


Gamboa's trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. Friday in federal court in Fargo.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Zent at (701) 241-5526

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