ST. REGIS MOHAWK RESERVATION, N.Y. — He had eluded the authorities for years. Witnesses against him had mysteriously disappeared. Shots were fired from his highly secured compound here last year when the state police tried to close in.
The man, John V. Oakes, like a fast-rising number of American Indian drug traffickers across the country, saw himself as "untouchable," as one senior investigator put it, protected by armed enforcers and a code of silence that ruled the reservation.
After he was finally arrested last May, Mr. Oakes was recorded from jail talking on the phone with his estranged wife. "I can't believe people let this happen to me," he said, according to Derek Champagne, the Franklin County district attorney who listened to the recorded call. "You can't touch me. I'm on the reservation, and I do what I want."
Investigators described Mr. Oakes as an intimidating trafficker who concentrated on stealing drugs and cash from a prosperous and growing cluster of criminals who, like Mr. Oakes, have built sprawling mansions near worn-down trailers on this reservation straddling the Canadian border.