Drug Operation Convictions for 8 Defendants of Montana Drug Trafficking and Firearm Possession
MISSOULA – The United States Attorney’s Office announced the completion of a Montana operation that convicted eight defendants for methamphetamine distribution and illegal possession of 68 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition. The operation, which joined numerous law enforcement agencies in Montana and was spearheaded by the Montana Regional Violent Crime Task Force, involved conspiracies to distribute approximately 11 pounds of methamphetamine in Montana, orchestrated by Richard Stroh, Logan Weniger, Neal Maddox, Misty Beck, and others. Nearly all eight defendants illegally possessed firearms and all were sentenced to at least 51 months in federal prison. Chief U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen sentenced Weniger to 17.5 years and Maddox to 15 years in prison. All 68 firearms were forfeited to the federal government, as was almost $11,000 in United States currency.
“This operation put an end to organizations that were delivering dangerous drugs straight into our Montana communities,” said Mike Cotter, U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana. “Methamphetamine has a devastating ripple effect—it ruins lives, families and communities. I am proud of the hard work and long hours the members of this operation invested in these cases. Our state is a safer place as a result.”
The Montana Regional Violent Crime Task Force includes members from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Missoula City Police Department, the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation, the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office, the United States Probation Office, and the Montana Department of Corrections Probation and Parole Office. The FBI’s SWAT Team and the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office also provided valuable assistance during the investigations. The conspiracies in these cases were responsible for bringing roughly 11 pounds of meth into Montana. In addition to the significant quantity of meth, what is particularly noteworthy about this operation is the number and nature of firearms possessed by almost all of the 8 defendants. The agents who worked these cases seized 68 firearms, including several semi-automatic assault rifles, unregistered silencers, high capacity magazines, laser sights, and one fully-automatic machine gun. They also seized two 37-millimeter grenade launchers, several homemade grenades, and thousands of rounds of live ammunition.
All members of the drug trafficking organizations pleaded guilty to federal charges ranging from conspiracy to distribute meth to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
The investigation began in 2015, when law enforcement agents began conducting interviews about meth distribution and firearm possession in and around Missoula. The information gleaned from those interviews led to the execution of search warrants. Investigators discovered that Richard Stroh, Luke Hayes, Ryan Hippenstiel, Shacotta St. Onge, Logan Weniger, Katrina Everhart, Neal Maddox and Misty Beck were obtaining and distributing methamphetamine in Missoula, Northwest Montana, and Idaho. Several of them were also in possession of firearms and, in some instances, exchanging firearms for drugs.
Montana grand juries ultimately indicted the eight defendants responsible for the drug trafficking and firearm possession and all eight pleaded guilty. Maddox and Beck were the last to be sentenced, on December 16, 2016. The cases were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Racicot. This investigation involved the cooperation of many law enforcement agencies in Montana, including all the participants on the Montana Regional Violent Crime Task Force, the FBI’s SWAT Team, and the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office.