Billings man admits meth trafficking crimes
Thirty pounds of meth, $11,380 cash found in his vehicle
BILLINGS – An investigation into a methamphetamine conspiracy led to a Billings man who admitted drug trafficking crimes today after agents found 30 pounds of meth and $11,380 cash in his vehicle, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.
Jerry Ray Schuster, 56, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute meth and to possession with intent to distribute meth. Schuster faces a minimum mandatory 10 years to life in prison, a $10 million fine and at least five years of supervised release.
U.S. District Judge Susan Watters presided and set sentencing for May 7. Schuster was released pending further proceedings.
The prosecution said in court records that an investigation into meth trafficking led to Schuster and a co-defendant, Byrne Mestas. Mestas, 62, of Billings, has pleaded not guilty.
Law enforcement served a search warrant at Schuster’s and Mestas’ trailer on May 3, 2019. In the trailer residence, agents found one pound of meth, three rifles, drug paraphernalia and receipts corroborating trips to California. A pound of meth is the equivalent of about 3,624 doses.
Agents executed a second search warrant three days later on four vehicles located at the Schuster and Mestas residence. A search of a Suzuki Swift registered to Schuster found 30 pounds of meth located in three backpacks, $11,380 in cash and receipts documenting a trip to California. Thirty pounds of meth is the equivalent of about 108,720 doses and has a street value of about $225,000. In the other three vehicles, agents found another pound of meth, 100 pills, cash and other items.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Patten is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the FBI Task Force and the Eastern Montana High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a U.S. Department of Justice initiative to reduce violent crime. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, violent crime in Montana increased by 36% from 2013 to 2018. Through PSN, federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement partners in Montana focus on violent crime driven by methamphetamine trafficking, armed robbers, firearms offenses and violent offenders with outstanding warrants.