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Press Release

Gunfight over fake meth deal sends Billings man to prison for 10 years on trafficking, firearms crimes

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

BILLINGS – A Billings man who admitted to drug trafficking crimes after a fake methamphetamine deal led to a gunfight at the seller’s residence was sentenced today to 10 years in prison and to three years of supervised release, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.

James Armstrong Higgins, 41, pleaded guilty on Oct. 29, 2020 to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute meth and to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided.

In court documents filed in the case, the government alleged that on June 3, 2019, co-defendant Gregg Johnson introduced Higgins to a man in a Billings Walmart parking lot. Higgins paid the man $3,000 for a package wrapped in black plastic, which the seller said was meth. Everyone went their separate ways. Instead of meth, the seller had provided Higgins with a brick of rock salt.

When Higgins realized he had been cheated, he, a friend and Johnson went to the seller’s house to recover the money. Higgins, Johnson and the friend all were carrying firearms. No one answered when they pounded on the door. Higgins’ friend went to a rear door and as he began to enter, the shooting started. The friend and Johnson both fired their weapons. Several people were shot and wounded. There was no evidence Higgins brandished or fired his gun. Johnson was sentenced to seven years and 10 months in prison for conviction in the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin M. Rubich prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

This case is part of Project Guardian, the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws, and Project Safe Neighborhoods, the USDOJ’s initiative to reduce violent crime. Through these initiatives, 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 Johnson Howard
Public Affairs Officer

Updated April 30, 2021

Project Guardian
Project Safe Neighborhoods