Matthew James Nicolai Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Court
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Billings, on July 18, 2012, before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, MATTHEW JAMES NICOLAI, a 27-year-old resident of Pablo, pled guilty to use of a communications facility (cell phone) to aid in a conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana. Sentencing has been set for October 17, 2012. He is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica T. Fehr, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
On July 20, 2010, a Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office deputy initiated a traffic stop on a black 2010 Mercedes Benz SUV after running the license plate and determining that the owner had a valid arrest warrant. The owner of the vehicle provided a false name to the deputy but ultimately admitted the individual's name. A narcotics-detecting K-9 was called to the scene, and positively alerted on the vehicle for the presence of narcotic odors. The vehicle was impounded pending a search warrant application. A subsequent search yielded airline tickets, a cell phone, documents, $14,154 in cash, and user amounts of marijuana.
Pursuant to the Search Warrant, detectives had the cellular telephone seized from the vehicle analyzed. The contents revealed that the owner of the vehicle had been involved with selling multiple pounds of marijuana, as well as transporting tens of thousands of dollars in cash. Some of the text messages on the phone blatantly discuss prices for pounds of marijuana, smuggling bulk cash via the airlines, having bulk cash from drug proceeds deposited into bank accounts, and dealing marijuana to the reservations in Montana. According to the text messages on the phone, marijuana was distributed to Browning, Polson, Crow Agency, as well as Havre, St. Ignatius, Great Falls, Missoula, Cut Bank, Lolo, and other places throughout Montana.
One of the subjects having drug-related communications with the owner of the vehicle stopped in Yellowstone County was NICOLAI of Pablo.
NICOLAI was interviewed and admitted to running a money stash house for the owner of the vehicle. NICOLAI also admitted to keeping thousands in cash at his home during the course of the conspiracy.
NICOLAI faces possible penalties of 4 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release.
The investigation was conducted by the Billings Big Sky Safe Streets Task Force.