Jury convicts Helena woman of robbery over heroin trafficking
HELENA—A jury on Thursday convicted a Helena woman accused of participating in an armed home invasion to rob a couple involved in trafficking heroin, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.
The jury found Arielle Rose Cowser, 27, guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery affecting commerce and robbery affecting commerce. The jury acquitted Cowser of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Cowser faces a maximum 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and up to five years of supervised release. The three-day trial began on Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy presided. Sentencing is set for June 11. Cowser was released pending sentencing.
“Drug trafficking not only is illegal but also dangerous and leads to violence among those involved in the trade. We will prosecute drug-related robberies to the full extent of the law. I want to thank Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Bartleson along with the FBI, Montana Regional Violent Crime Task Force, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Missouri River Drug Task Force for investigating and prosecuting this case,” U.S. Attorney Alme said.
In evidence presented at trial, the prosecution said the FBI learned of a home invasion robbery in Helena in which the victims, a couple, were involved in trafficking heroin. Co-defendant Kielan Brett Franklin, who has pleaded guilty, provided the couple money to travel to Washington to buy an ounce of heroin. The couple returned to Montana with less than an ounce. When the couple did not immediately turn over the heroin, Franklin sent them threatening text messages.
On March 8, 2019, Cowser went to the victims’ residence and asked to enter, saying she had broken up with Franklin. The female victim let Cowser inside and a few minutes later, Cowser let in Franklin and two other co-defendants, Gerald Allen Hiler and Morgan Victor Pitsch. Hiler and Pitsch, who have pleaded guilty, wore masks.
Hiler brandished a handgun and Pitsch possessed one during the robbery. The defendants fled when they realized the female victim had called 911. The robbers took a small amount of heroin, the female victim’s wedding ring, her cell phone and a purse.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Bartleson is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by FBI, Montana Regional Violent Crime Task Force, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Missouri River Drug Task Force.
This case is part of Project Guardian, a Department of Justice initiative launched in the fall of 2019 to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Through Project Guardian, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Montana is working to enhance coordination of its federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement partners in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes. In addition, Project Guardian supports information sharing and taking action when individuals are denied a firearm purchase by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for mental health reasons or because they are a prohibited person.