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Press Release

Fairview Man Sentenced to 22 Years for Drug and Gun Crimes

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

BILLINGS – In a hearing in Billings today, U.S. District Judge Susan Watters sentenced Ryan Edward Lee, 32, of Fairview, to 270 months in prison followed by 5 years supervised release in connection to his November 2014 guilty plea to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense.

In pleadings filed at the time of the guilty pleas, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Whittaker told the court that from November 2013 to January 9, 2014, agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation investigated drug trafficking in the Bakken Fields, including allegations of methamphetamine distribution in and around Sidney, Montana, in Richland County.   Using informants and law enforcement controlled exchanges, agents observed Lee deliver methamphetamine to another individual on two separate occasions.

After the first sale, Lee was pulled over by the Montana Highway Patrol for traffic violations.  Lee provided false identification and received a warning for the traffic violations.

After the second sale, Montana Highway Patrol again conducted a traffic stop of Lee’s vehicle. Following a pat down search of the defendant, law enforcement found $2,500 in cash in Lee’s pocket.  Once placed in the back of the patrol car, Lee kicked out a window and attempted to escape by fleeing on foot. After a chase, Lee was apprehended.  During a search of Lee’s vehicle, law enforcement officers discovered a metal flip container with a digital scale and approximately 2 oz. of methamphetamine among other items and drug paraphernalia behind Lee’s driver’s seat. They also discovered, lodged between the seat and center console, a loaded .380 semi-automatic pistol.  A trace on the handgun revealed that Lee had purchased it several months earlier using a false identification and a false name—the same stolen identity he used multiple times with the Montana Highway Patrol.

In addition, after his arrest and while in custody in Yellowstone County Detention Facility, it was discovered that Lee had attempted an escape by breaking out the window of his cell and that he had been chipping away the wall outside the window for at least three months.

The prosecution was part of Project Safe Bakken, a cooperative effort between federal and state prosecutors and federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in Montana and North Dakota.  Drug crimes in the Bakken area have increased dramatically since the oil boom began in the region several years ago.  Federal prosecution has been a priority of U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter as a way to assist state, county, and city authorities with the substantially increased demand on law enforcement resources.  Parole has been abolished in the federal system and although Lee may be entitled to good time credit of up to 15% of his sentence, the sentence imposed will be the sentence served.

The investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Montana Division of Criminal Investigations, Montana Highway Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Updated April 9, 2015