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Press Release

Billings man admits stealing firearms from business after using construction excavator to break in

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana

BILLINGS – A Billings man accused of stealing firearms from a business after breaking in by using a construction excavator to tear down a section of wall and door admitted to a firearms crime today, U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.

Erik Stephen Deaner, 46, pleaded guilty to theft from a federal firearm licensee. Deaner faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Cavan presided. Deaner was detained pending further proceedings. A sentencing date is pending before U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters.

In court documents, the government alleged that on Oct. 21, Deaner stole firearms from Castle Arms, a federal firearms licensee located in Yellowstone County, by using a construction excavator to tear down a section of wall and door. The excavator had been taken from a nearby construction site. Construction site employees told law enforcement that the excavator had been locked and no keys were missing but that the key was universal so anyone with the manufacturer’s key could potentially access the excavator. An investigation determined that five pistols and one antique rifle had been stolen and that Deaner had been in the business previously and had behaved oddly. Investigators went to Deaner’s home and arrested him on an outstanding warrant when he came outside. Deaner admitted to using the excavator to break into the business and to stealing the firearms. Deaner said he knew he was prohibited from possessing firearms but that he liked firearms. All of the stolen firearms were recovered from his garage.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas K. Godfrey is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a U.S. Department of Justice initiative to reduce violent crime. 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.



Clair J. Howard
Public Affairs Officer

Updated December 29, 2021

Project Safe Neighborhoods