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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Montana

Friday, June 21, 2013

Leland Neil Lapier, Jr. Found Guilty In U.S. Federal Court

The United States Attorney's Office announced that on June 20, 2013, in Great Falls, after a federal district court trial before Chief U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen, LELAND NEIL LAPIER, JR., a 28-year-old resident of Great Falls, was found guilty of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. Sentencing is set for September 24, 2013.

At trial, the following evidence and testimony was presented to the jury.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica A. Betley prosecuted the case for the United States.

In January 2012, Great Falls law enforcement became alerted to a large scale methamphetamine conspiracy. Subsequently, Louis Kanyid, Joelle Jones, Ann Wetzel, Joe Wetzel, Mark Kness, Linda Reynolds, Robert Boucher, Ron Leeson, Tammie Lapie, and Mark Abresch have pleaded guilty to various methamphetamine crimes. Through independent investigation, as well as through debriefs of these defendants, law enforcement learned that LAPIER was also an active participant in this conspiracy and responsible for the distribution of methamphetamine throughout Great Falls.

From September 2011, through September 2012, Louis Kanyid brought pounds of actual (pure) methamphetamine from Kennewick, Washington, to Great Falls. Kanyid spoke with law enforcement and said one of his original contacts in Great Falls was LAPIER's sister. Kanyid met her through Craig's List, and she began to purchase and sell methamphetamine provided by Kanyid. Eventually, though, LAPIER took over her position. Kanyid found the methamphetamine market in Great Falls to be extremely profitable, and from April 2012, and forward, he never brought less than a pound of methamphetamine with him on each trip to Great Falls.

Kanyid regularly provided LAPIER with half of the methamphetamine that he brought to town. LAPIER lived with his girlfriend in Great Falls and he conducted his methamphetamine business from the garage. Customers met LAPIER and Kanyid in the garage so that neighbors would not witness the drug transactions. Kanyid paid his methamphetamine supplier $1,200 per ounce and never sold an ounce of methamphetamine in Great Falls for less than $2,000. Kanyid claimed an ounce of methamphetamine could actually be bought for $3,200 in Great Falls. At one point, Kanyid and LAPIER engaged in a contest to see how much methamphetamine each could sell in one day in Great Falls. According to Kanyid, himself and LAPIER made $6,000 each in one day.

In August 2012, Kanyid sold five pounds of methamphetamine in Great Falls, including two pounds directly to LAPIER. Law enforcement eventually seized approximately 38 grams of pure methamphetamine from Kanyid's hotel room.

Law enforcement also arrested Kanyid's girlfriend, Joelle Jones, for her involvement in this methamphetamine conspiracy. Jones later told agents that Kanyid spent a great amount of time with LAPIER. In fact, when police arrested Kanyid, LAPIER immediately called Jones to warn her of the arrest. Jones later took a taxi to LAPIER's house that night and LAPIER's girlfriend provided Jones with a car to drive back to Washington. Jones returned to Great Falls again a week later to meet with LAPIER. After Kanyid's arrest, LAPIER encouraged Jones to bring methamphetamine to him in Great Falls.

After a grand jury indicted Kanyid, Jones, Ann Wetzel, Joe Wetzel, Mark Kness, and Linda Reynolds, LAPIER turned elsewhere to buy methamphetamine. Following the initial indictment and arrests, LAPIER then turned to Robert Boucher in order to purchase methamphetamine.

Boucher was from Spokane, Washington, and began selling methamphetamine in December 2009. He originally made contact with Great Falls methamphetamine dealers through a female Great Falls resident, who traveled to Spokane to purchase methamphetamine. Mark Abresch also accompanied this woman on trips to Spokane. After approximately six months, Boucher began to travel to Great Falls to sell methamphetamine. He normally brought six to eight ounces of methamphetamine on each trip. Boucher stayed at Tammy Lapie's home, and became associated with selling methamphetamine with Lapie, Abresch, and Ron Leeson. Boucher also told agents that he met LAPIER in Great Falls. Boucher regularly sold LAPIER two ounces of methamphetamine at a time, and did that approximately three or four times. LAPIER paid $1,700 per ounce, and last bought methamphetamine from Boucher about one week before Boucher's arrest in December 2012.

Tammy Lapie told agents that LAPIER began to come to her home in October 2012. LAPIER began to look for larger amounts of methamphetamine and turned to Boucher for methamphetamine. Lapie believed LAPIER purchased one ounce of methamphetamine from Boucher on one occasion, and between one to four ounces of methamphetamine on another occasion. Law enforcement seized approximately 44 grams of actual methamphetamine from Lapie's home. Chris Leeson also told agents that people knew that Kanyid was LAPIER's original source of methamphetamine. Leeson once traded a car speaker to LAPIER for an eight ball of methamphetamine.

Mark Abresch originally worked as a confidential informant with the Great Falls Police Department before being dropped as an informant due to continued drug dealing. During the summer of 2012, Abresch bought approximately 60 grams of actual methamphetamine from Boucher through controlled drug buys. Abresch alerted agents in July 2012, that LAPIER always had methamphetamine in Great Falls. Abresch did not purchase methamphetamine from LAPIER because he charged $2,000 per ounce.

In September 2012, Abresch told agents that he had hung out at LAPIER's house on numerous occasions and saw LAPIER with large amounts of methamphetamine. In the spring of 2012, Abresch saw LAPIER with four to six ounces of methamphetamine. Abresch then saw numerous customers purchase the methamphetamine. During mid-summer 2012, Abresch observed Kanyid drop off a half pound of methamphetamine to LAPIER in LAPIER's garage. LAPIER again started distributing the methamphetamine from the garage. Lastly, in August or early September 2012, Abresch observed LAPIER sell four ounces of methamphetamine from his garage.

LAPIER faces possible penalties of a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and could be sentenced to life, a $10,000,000 fine, and 5 years supervised release.

The investigation was conducted by the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force - Russell Country Drug Task Force.

Updated January 14, 2015