A major drug investigation that started in 2015 netted several pounds of methamphetamine, dozens of firearms and the conviction of eight defendants.
At a press conference today, Montana U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter said the drugs were primarily being distributed in and around Missoula:
"The drug threat in our state is real and investigations such as this require enormous effort and commitment from the law enforcement partners. It requires teamwork," Cotter said.
The investigation was spearheaded by the Montana Regional Violent Crime Task Force, which includes various local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
"There’s a demand for methamphetamine like we’ve never seen before," said Monte Shaide, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He says that it comes down to cost — someone can sell meth for more money in Montana compared to other states in the West.
Cotter says the drug operation included conspiracies to distribute 11 pounds of high quality meth.
Investigators confiscated 68 firearms, including one fully automatic rifle, two 37-millimeter grenade launchers, several homemade grenades, and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
The FBI's Shaide said that law enforcement has seen a rise in the number of weapons confiscated by drug operators in the state:
"A lot of Montana residences have very nice guns that they own. Burglaries occur. The weapons are traded for methamphetamine. It's a very high commodity. Weapons can also make their way down to Mexico through cartels and other individuals."
All the weapons confiscated during this investigation were forfeited to the federal government, as was almost $11,000.
All eight defendants were sentenced to at least 51 months in federal prison.