Brandon Robert Bickford Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Court
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Billings, on August 7, 2012, before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, BRANDON ROBERT BICKFORD, a 26-year-old resident of Cut Bank, pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana. Sentencing has been set for November 7, 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 a 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 discussed 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 Indian 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 BICKFORD. When interviewed by law enforcement, BICKFORD admitted that during the course of the conspiracy he personally received and distributed between 50 and 90 pounds of marijuana.
The evidence would have proven that more than 100 kilograms of marijuana was possessed with the intent to distribute by BICKFORD and his co-conspirators during the course of the conspiracy and that it was reasonably foreseeable to BICKFORD that the conspiracy involved more than 100 kilograms of marijuana.
BICKFORD faces possible penalties of a mandatory minimum of 5 years and could be sentenced to 40 years, a $2,000,000 fine, and 4 years supervised release. .
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Billings Big Sky Safe Streets Task Force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.