The last of four defendants tied to the largest single seizure of methamphetamine ever in Anaconda-Deer Lodge County pleaded guilty to a felony distribution charge Wednesday.
Prosecutors are recommending that Erik Henderson be sentenced to Montana State Prison for nine years, one less than defendant David Francis Skaw got after police found more than a pound of meth, most of it pure and uncut, with some crystals as big as golf balls.
A jury found Stormi Wilkes guilty of a lesser possession charge last week but she has yet to be sentenced, and the other defendant — Adam Scott Reiss — previously pleaded guilty to a possession charge and was given a three-year deferred sentence.
Henderson pleaded guilty to criminal distribution of dangerous drugs, a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison and a fine up to $50,000, and will be sentenced later by District Judge Ray Dayton.
Ben Krakowka, county attorney in Anaconda-Deer Lodge County, is seeking nine years in the state prison with none suspended, plus a $10,000 fine. Henderson’s public defender, J. Blaine Anderson, can argue for a lesser sentence.
Dayton reminded Henderson that he was not bound by any plea agreement, and given the guilty plea, no matter what the sentence, “You are going to be stuck with whatever I give you.”
Authorities say the combined 473 grams of meth seized had a street value of about $30,000, but could have brought in a lot more once the pure quantities were cut with other substances.
Dayton allowed Henderson to remain free on bond pending sentencing, but suggested he not break any more laws before then.
“It would be a terrible time to get in trouble,” he said.
The bust started when police pulled over a red Subaru Legacy on Highway 1 outside Anaconda on Nov. 9, 2017 for having an expired tag. Wilkes was driving and Skaw, who had an arrest warrant out of Missoula, was a passenger.
Police say Skaw had a small amount of meth on him but Wilkes refused to let officers search the car without a warrant, so it was seized and secured while they obtained one.
They found several Ziploc bags in the car, including one containing 29 grams of meth, and a FedEx box sent from Tucson, Arizona, addressed to E&H Enterprises at 401 Cherry St. in Anaconda that had been delivered that day. It contained 354 grams of suspected meth and a digital scale.
“The methamphetamine appeared to be uncut and some of the crystals … were as large as golf balls,” prosecutors said in a charging document.
Officers recalled seeing the red Subaru at 401 Cherry St. the previous day, got a search warrant for the house and found Henderson and Reiss inside. They lived there and said Wilkes and Skaw had stayed there the night before.
The search turned up more meth, packaging material, drug paraphernalia, marijuana and equipment for growing pot. Police found another 90 grams of meth inside a PVC container found in Henderson’s bedroom.
Reiss admitted trying to grow pot and said he knew Henderson used meth, but he denied knowing that meth distribution was going on in the house, prosecutors said.
Henderson admitted to transporting meth across state lines and receiving meth in the mail via carriers such as FedEx, and said he was acting as a middle-man for Skaw, who put up money for half the purchase.
The meth in the large package, he said, was inside a baby-powder container to hide its presence during shipping.