MISSOULA, MT. -- The United States Attorney for the District of Montana, Michael W. Cotter, announced today the culmination of a 12‑month multi‑agency investigation into the drug trafficking activities of a criminal enterprise operating in the State of Montana. A total of 12 criminal search warrants were executed on November 16, 2011, at premises in the following communities: Kalispell, Missoula, Somers and Whitefish. Items seized by law enforcement may be disclosed after search warrant returns are filed with the United States District Court.
In addition, four Civil Seizure Warrants for financial institutions in Missoula seeking an unspecified amount of money were executed.
Search warrants and civil seizure warrants were issued based on judicial findings that probable cause exists to believe that the premises located in four Montana towns are involved in criminal enterprises that have violated the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) related to marijuana, a Schedule I controlled substance. Specifically, it is alleged in the search warrants, civil seizure warrants and related documents that the premises or property identified were involved in some or all of the following violations of federal law: manufacture of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and distribution of marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841, conspiracy to commit the offenses of manufacture of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and distribution of marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, structuring or assisting in structuring any transaction to evade currency reporting requirements or causing or attempting to cause a domestic financial institution to fail to file Currency Transaction Reports in violation of 31 U.S.C. §§ 5324(a)(1) and (3).
Congress placed marijuana in Schedule I of the CSA. Under federal law, growing, distributing and possessing marijuana (other than in a federally authorized research program) is a violation of the CSA. A substance listed under Schedule I has: (a) a high potential for abuse, (b) no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and (c) a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision. Because of the danger posed by Schedule I substances, the Department of Justice continues to focus its enforcement and investigative efforts in targeting large‑scale drug organizations that cultivate, manufacture, distribute, or sell marijuana.
"The Drug Enforcement Administration will continue to enforce all laws under the Controlled Substances Act, including the targeting of drug trafficking organizations involved in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana." Acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Merrill, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
United States Attorney Cotter said that "Twelve new search warrants were carried out today because sufficient probable cause was established to support that the premises were involved in illegal and large‑scale trafficking of marijuana. When criminal networks violate federal laws in Montana those involved will be prosecuted."
Individuals with illnesses who are in clear and unambiguous compliance with state law are not the focus of this investigation.
The following federal, state and local law enforcement agencies participated in the investigation which lead to the execution of the search warrants and the seizure of the civil assets at the locations in Northwestern Montana: the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Secret Service, the Missoula Police Department, the Missoula County Sheriff's Office, the Missoula High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, and the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office. The following agencies also assisted in the execution of the search warrants and the seizure of the civil assets discussed above: Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations, the Montana Division of Criminal Investigations, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, the Kalispell Police Department, and the Northwest Montana Drug Task Force.
The information contained in the search warrants, civil seizure warrants and related documents are based on the information discovered during the course of ongoing investigations. To date, no federal criminal charges, indictments, informations or complaints have been filed against any of the named individuals identified in the search warrants, civil seizure warrants and related documents. All named individuals and locations identified in the search warrants, civil seizure warrants and related documents are presumed innocent until proven guilty.