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Press Release

James Benjamin Arnold Sentenced In U.S. District Court

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

The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Billings, on September 18, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy, JAMES BENJAMIN ARNOLD, a 25-year-old resident of Missoula, was sentenced to a term of:

  • Prison: 6 months, plus an additional 6 months of house arrest with electronic monitoring
  • Special Assessment: $100
  • Supervised Release: 4 years

ARNOLD was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana.

In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica T. Fehr, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

On July 20, 2010, a Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office deputy initiated a traffic stop on a black 2010 Mercedes Benz SUV after running the license plate and determining that the owner had a valid arrest warrant. A narcotics-detecting K-9 was called to the scene and positively alerted on the vehicle for the presence of narcotic odors. The vehicle was impounded pending a search warrant application. A subsequent search yielded airline tickets, a cell phone, documents, $14,154 in cash, and user amounts of marijuana.

Detectives had the cellular telephone seized from the vehicle analyzed. The contents revealed that the owner of the vehicle, Joseph Chartraw, had been involved with selling multiple pounds of marijuana, as well as transporting tens of thousands of dollars in cash. Some of the text messages on the phone blatantly discussed prices for pounds of marijuana, smuggling bulk cash via the airlines, having bulk cash from drug proceeds deposited into bank accounts, and dealing marijuana to the Indian reservations in Montana. According to the text messages on the phone, marijuana was distributed to Browning, Polson, Crow Agency, as well as Havre, St. Ignatius, Great Falls, Missoula, Cut Bank, Lolo, and other places throughout Montana.

One of the subjects involved in the conspiracy was ARNOLD. ARNOLD was approached by other members of the conspiracy and agreed to act as a courier for the organization. ARNOLD is reported to have made between 7 and 10 trips for Chartraw to California and Oregon to pick up marijuana and to deliver cash to the sources of supply. ARNOLD's expenses were paid by the organization and he was paid cash and marijuana for each of his trips.

The evidence would prove that it was reasonably foreseeable to ARNOLD, based on his own trips to California and Oregon, as well as his relationship with co-conspirators, including Brandon Bickford, that the conspiracy involved at least 100 kilograms of marijuana and was possessed with the intent to distribute.

Chartraw and Bickford pled guilty to federal charges and have been sentenced.

Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that ARNOLD will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, ARNOLD does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.

The investigation was conducted by the Billings Big Sky Safe Streets Task Force.

Updated January 14, 2015