Lincoln Benavides Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Missoula on November 5, 2009, before U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy, LINCOLN BENAVIDES, a 35-year-old resident of Boise, Idaho, pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and distribution of methamphetamine. Sentencing is set for April 23, 2010. He is currently detained.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph E. Thaggard and Tara J. Elliott, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
In approximately September 2000, agents of the Northwest Montana Drug Task Force (NWDTF), a drug task force operating in Lake and Flathead Counties, learned BENAVIDES was involved in the distribution of methamphetamine.
In December 2000, R.W., an informant for the NWDTF, stated that he was an associate of BENAVIDES. R.W. stated he, BENAVIDES, and T.K. (full name withheld to protect the identity of the individual) made multiple trips to Idaho to obtain methamphetamine. R.W. stated the methamphetamine was distributed to known drug dealers in the Flathead Valley.
On February 17, 2001, in Missoula, R.W., working with the NWDTF and the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation (MDCI), made a controlled purchase of methamphetamine from BENAVIDES.
Thereafter, R.W. introduced an undercover MDCI agent to BENAVIDES. On February 21, 2001, the undercover MDCI agent purchased approximately one quarter pound of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine from BENAVIDES in a controlled transaction in Lake County.
On March 5, 2001, BENAVIDES agreed to sell approximately three pounds of methamphetamine to the undercover MDCI agent. He met the agent at a location in Lake County and provided methamphetamine to the agent. BENAVIDES was arrested and he and his vehicle were searched. Collectively, approximately three pounds of a substance or mixture containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine was seized from BENAVIDES or his vehicle.
BENAVIDES was interviewed by agents of the NWDTF and the MDCI. BENAVIDES admitted that he and others were engaged in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine at various locations in Montana, mostly in western Montana. BENAVIDES also admitted that, as part of the conspiracy, he obtained methamphetamine in other states, then transported it to Montana, where it was distributed.
BENAVIDES was charged in state court with trafficking methamphetamine and released on bail. Following his release on bail, BENAVIDES continued to transport methamphetamine to Montana or had methamphetamine transported to Montana by couriers involved in the conspiracy.
In approximately November 2001, BENAVIDES fled from the United States into Mexico. He eventually settled in Texas, where he remained until March 2004.
During the time he was in Texas, BENAVIDES continued to distribute or had couriers distribute methamphetamine to K.S., located in western Montana.
In March 2004, BENAVIDES was arrested at a family function in Wisconsin and returned to Montana. Following BENAVIDES' arrest in March 2004, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies investigated the full scope of his drug trafficking activities between 1999 and 2004. During the course of that investigation, numerous sources confirmed that BENAVIDES conspired to distribute methamphetamine in Montana and did in fact distribute methamphetamine in Montana.
BENAVIDES faces possible penalties of life in prison, a $4,000,000 fine and at least 5 years supervised release.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Ravalli County Sheriff's Office, the Missoula High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, the Northwest Montana Drug Task Force and the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.