BILLINGS – A jury today convicted a Billings man of methamphetamine crimes for his role in a large trafficking organization that brought hundreds of pounds of the drug into Montana, U.S Attorney Kurt Alme said today.
The jury found Nicholas John Montano, 34, of Billings, guilty of conspiracy to possess meth with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute as charged in an indictment. The trial began on Monday.
Montano faces a minimum mandatory 10 years to life in prison, a $10 million fine and at least five years of supervised release.
U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided and set sentencing for June 24. Montano remains in custody.
“Mr. Montano worked with others to distribute an enormous amount of this highly-addictive poison into our communities. We are committed to dismantling these meth trafficking organizations and prosecuting all members. I want to thank Assistant U.S. Attorneys Colin Rubich and Tom Godfrey, along with the Eastern Montana High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, Billings Police Department, FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration for investigating and prosecuting this case,” U.S. Attorney Alme said.
The prosecution presented evidence at trial that in the spring and summer of 2018, Montano received meth from Joshua Clause, who was the head of a large drug trafficking ring that imported hundreds of pounds of meth into Montana. Clause has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges and is serving a 15-year federal prison sentence. Clause met Montano through another person, and after Clause and that person had a falling out, Clause contacted Montano, who began to receive meth from Clause for redistribution.
Clause told law enforcement that he supplied Montano with a quarter-pound to one pound of meth each time he restocked. Clause and Montano also traveled once together to Bakersfield, CA, where Clause got meth from a supplier. Clause supplied Montano with approximately 10 to 15 pounds of meth during their association. Fifteen pounds of meth is the equivalent of about 54,360 doses.
Law enforcement officers arrested Montano in Billings on a federal warrant on Aug. 19, 2018 after he fled in a stolen vehicle. Officers tracked Montano to an apartment complex, where he went to all three floors and hid in woman’s apartment. When arrested, Montano had on him $1,645 cash. Officers also found a bag containing about 92 grams of meth they believed Montano had discarded as he was running. He admitted he had been on all three floors and possessed a small amount of meth.
Four days earlier, Billings Police Officers responded to a 911 call about a blocked vehicle at a restaurant and, at the request of the vehicle’s owner, removed a bag that belonged to Montano. Officers took the bag into their custody and, following policy, opened it to ensure it did not contain hazardous materials. The bag contained approximately 32 grams of meth, a wallet with $3,075, a syringe, a loaded 9mm magazine and Montano’s identification information.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Colin Rubich and Tom Godfrey are prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Eastern Montana High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, Billings Police Department, FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration.
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 36% from 2013 to 2018. 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.