Billings Man Sentenced for Great Falls Methamphetamine Distribution Ring
GREAT FALLS - The United States Attorney’s Office announced today that 53-year old Michael Lira of Billings was sentenced to 150 months in prison, five years of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment. U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided over the hearing.
In the fall of 2016, the Russell Country Drug Task Force began investigating the defendant, Michael Lee Lira, for trafficking methamphetamine in Montana. Through further investigation, law enforcement became aware that the defendant, who lived in Billings, Montana, distributed methamphetamine for Great Falls resident, Robert Linn, Jr. Linn was previously sentenced to 276 months in prison for his role in this offense.
On April 8, 2017, law enforcement learned that the defendant planned to pick up methamphetamine from Linn that day. Agents also learned the defendant and Linn arranged to meet at a gas station near Lewistown, Montana. Law enforcement followed Linn throughout the early morning as he traveled around Great Falls. Linn eventually began to drive eastbound out of Great Falls toward Lewistown. Meanwhile, agents followed the defendant as he left Billings and drove toward Lewistown.
Around mid-morning, agents observed the defendant park next to Linn’s truck in the gas station parking lot. The defendant got out of his car and went to speak with Linn. A few minutes later, the defendant left Linn’s truck, retrieved a bag from his car, and placed the bag in the back passenger seat of Linn’s truck. Approximately 20 minutes later, the defendant and Linn got out of Linn’s truck. The defendant grabbed a black bag from Linn’s truck and placed it in the defendant’s car. Linn then drove back to Great Falls, while the defendant drove east and entered a neighboring colony outside of Lewistown.
Agents waited outside of a colony building for the defendant but eventually knocked on the door. A woman came to the door and stated that the defendant was in a trailer behind the building. Agents proceeded to the trailer and the defendant opened the door. Based on the gathered information, agents arrested the defendant and initially located a small baggie of methamphetamine in the defendant’s coat.
Soon thereafter, law enforcement searched the defendant’s car for the suspected methamphetamine. The defendant stated the contraband was located in a red toolbox in the back of the car. Agents located a large plastic bag inside the box, and seized four large bundles of methamphetamine contained in the bag. The DEA laboratory analyzed the methamphetamine seized from the defendant and determined the methamphetamine had a net weight of 1793 grams and a substance purity of 99%. This resulted in 1775 grams, or approximately four pounds, of actual methamphetamine. The methamphetamine seized from the defendant’s coat had a net weight of 4.264 grams and a substance purity of 99%. This resulted in 4.221 grams of actual methamphetamine.
During a subsequent interview, the defendant explained that he began by only selling an ounce of methamphetamine at a time. However, he quickly moved up to dealing more significant amounts of methamphetamine. The defendant believed he received a pound of methamphetamine from Linn by August and September of 2016. The defendant then recounted that he got two pounds of methamphetamine in December 2016, and an additional two pounds of methamphetamine in January and February 2017.
Lira has an extensive criminal history that include prior felony convictions for narcotics, burglaries, assaults, and firearms.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Betley and investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Russell Country Drug Task Force.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is partnering with federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement to identify those responsible for significant violent crime in Montana. A centerpiece of this effort is Project Safe Neighborhoods, a recently reinvigorated Department of Justice program that has proven to be successful in reducing violent crime. Today’s sentencing is part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods program.