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Two-year investigation concludes with dismantling of multi-state drug trafficking organization

January 16, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Two-year investigation concludes with dismantling of multi-state drug trafficking organization

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On Friday, a drug task force made up of local and federal law enforcement agencies announced the conclusion of a two-year investigation into a multi-state drug trafficking organization.

Seven of the eight people who were found guilty in federal court are from the Missoula and Hungry Horse, Montana areas and were plotting to distribute approximately eleven pounds of meth.

“This investigation focused on the distribution of methamphetamine and the possession and exchange of firearms in the Missoula and northwest Montana area,” Michael Cotter stated, who is the U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana.

The two-year probe into the drug trafficking organization was launched by the Montana Regional Violent Crime Task Force of the FBI, KTVH reported.

This task force includes the Missoula Police Department, Missoula County Sheriff’s Department, FBI officials, the Montana Division of Criminal Investigations, the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Probation Office, and the Montana Department of Corrections Probation and Parole Office.

The team was supported by the FBI SWAT Team and the Flathead County Sheriff’s Department.

The investigation began in 2015 with comprehensive interviews about meth distribution and weapons possession in the Missoula area that led to search warrants.

Detectives served three search warrants that resulted in the apprehensions of the co-conspirators, along with the seizure of weapons, drugs and $11,000 in cash.

The 68 weapons seized included grenade launchers, assault rifles, silencers, laser sights, two homemade grenades, along with thousands of rounds of ammunition.

“The task force has been instrumental in addressing the most violent offenders in our area,” Mike Brady, Missoula Police Chief, stated.

Monte Shaide, a special agent for the FBI, said that increased quantities of meth continue to come into Montana.

Authorities seized the large stash of weapons during joint agency raids across Montana

Imported meth is cheaper than the drug that is manufactured locally, which increased demand for the drug to be imported from the west coast and Mexico, he added.

Routes that traffickers utilized to transport the drugs include Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and Washington.

Cotter added that college-educated chemists make the meth that is being produced in the southwestern United States and Mexico.

Authorities added that the large numbers of weaponry occupied by most of the conspirators were unique to this case.

In a statement released on Friday, prosecutors announced the charges against members of the drug trafficking organization:

– Richard Wayne Stroh, 36, an area meth supplier, has been charged with conspiring to distribute meth and will serve 60 months in prison, along with four years of supervised release.

– Logan Rivers Weniger. 35, was a supplier and meth dealer and was charged with conspiring to distribute meth and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. He has been sentenced 17.5 years in federal prison and five years of supervised release. At the time of his arrest, he was in possession of a large amount of weapons and ammunition, including a grenade launcher.

– Misty Leanne Beck and Neal Allen Maddox, both 39, were charged with conspiracy to distribute meth and Maddox was hit with additional charges for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. Beck was sentenced to 72 months and five years of supervision. Maddox was sentenced to 15 years behind bars, and five years of supervision.

– Katrina Lynn Everhart, 48, was charged with conspiracy to distribute meth that she obtained from Weniger and other sources. She will serve 60 months behind bars, with four years of supervision.

– Luke Aldon Hayes, 34, was charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and silencers that were not registered. He traded guns with others for meth for his personal use. He was sentenced to 78 months behind bars and three years of supervision.

– Shacotta St. Onge, 23, was referred to as a mid-level dealer of meth in the area. He was charged with conspiring to distribute the drug and will serve 51 months, with seven years of supervised release.

– Ryan David Hippenstiel, 37, supplied meth purchased in Idaho to St. Onge. He has been charged with conspiracy to distribute meth and was in possession of a stolen handgun and $5,150 in cash at the time of his arrest. He was sentenced to 96 months and 10 years of supervised released.

All of the suspects pleaded guilty and were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Racicot.

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