California Meth Supplier Found Guilty in U.S. District Court
A federal jury in Billings convicted Mario Albert Villegas, a 32 year-old resident of Los Angeles, California, of Conspiracy to Possess Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2. U.S. District Judge Susan Watters set Villegas’s sentencing for June 11, 2015.
Prosecutors presented evidence that in September of 2013, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, Montana Division of Criminal Investigations, Department of Homeland Security and Eastern Montana HIDTA in Billings, Montana began investigating a drug trafficking organization headed by Casey Fleming and Jason Neel responsible for shipping methamphetamine from California to the Billings and Roundup, Montana areas. Fleming was a Taft, California, resident and Neel was incarcerated at the California State Prison in Corcoran, California, where he continued to run the organization from behind bars. Initially, agents introduced an undercover agent into the organization who made controlled purchases of methamphetamine from Fleming and other distributors in Montana. Between January 23, 2014, and March 22, 2014, the Court authorized the interception and recording of conversations from the phones of Fleming, Neel, and another co-conspirator. During the course of the wiretap investigation, agents intercepted numerous calls between Fleming and Neel in which they detailed their plans to obtain methamphetamine from sources of supply in California and have it shipped to Montana.
During the trial, the government introduced numerous conversations between Fleming and Villegas in which Villegas planned to sell methamphetamine to Fleming. The evidence established that Villegas sold Fleming one pound of methamphetamine to Fleming in December of 2013 and Villegas arranged for a drug courier to provide Fleming with two pounds of methamphetamine at a McDonald’s in Taft, California on January 23, 2014. The evidence showed that Villegas also had a drug courier provide Fleming with one pound of methamphetamine at the Camarillo Outlets in Camarillo, California.
Prosecutors presented evidence that Fleming had other sources ship the methamphetamine through the mail to a residence in Roundup. Once the methamphetamine arrived in Roundup, Fleming instructed distributors in Montana to sell the methamphetamine and deposit the proceeds of the sale of methamphetamine into his bank account. Fleming described that the methamphetamine he purchased from Villegas was “fronted,” that is, Fleming first obtained the methamphetamine from Villegas and then paid Villegas the full amount he owed with the proceeds of the sale of the meth. Several co-conspirators from both California and Montana testified at trial and explained their role in the shipment of methamphetamine from California to Montana. Fleming and other co-conspirators in California identified Villegas as the main source of supply for the organization’s methamphetamine from December of 2013 through February of 2014. The government also called several agents and law enforcement officers from Montana and California who surveilled and monitored the narcotics transactions.