California man sentenced to more than six years in prison for meth trafficking in Billings area
Law enforcement seized about 17 pounds of meth from vehicle
BILLINGS — A California man who admitted to trafficking methamphetamine after law enforcement officers found eight kilograms, or 17.6 pounds, of the drug hidden in a vehicle he was driving was sentenced today to six years and six months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.
Christopher Santillanes Ceja, 31, of Riverside, California, pleaded guilty on March 8 to possession with intent to distribute meth.
U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided.
In court documents filed in the case, the government alleged that law enforcement agents learned in March 2019 about a shipment of meth being transported from Mexico to Billings. Law enforcement surveillance saw a vehicle with a California license plate registered to Ceja pull into a Billings hotel. Ceja was known to law enforcement as having been involved in meth trafficking in the Billings area. Later that same evening, officers conducted a traffic stop of the vehicle and Ceja was driving. Agents impounded and searched the vehicle pursuant to a warrant. Agents located 19 bundles of meth concealed throughout the vehicle. The meth totaled eight kilograms, or about 17.6 pounds, of pure meth. Eight kilograms of meth is the equivalent of about 63,782 doses.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lori H. Suek prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the FBI’s Western Transnational Organized Crime 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 48% from 2013 to 2019. 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.