Christian Joseph Nava

Billings man who was found hiding under a bed and arrested denies drug, firearms charges

A Billings man who tried to evade law enforcement officers by hiding in a box spring mattress admitted to a federal drug charge on Thursday.

Christian Joseph Nava, 31, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute meth as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. Two other crimes, including possession of a stolen firearm and being a felon in possession of a firearm, are to be dismissed at sentencing.

Officers arrested Nava in early December after a warrant was issued for his arrest for state parole violations, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Godfrey.

The Montana Violent Offender Task Force got information that Nava, who has a long state record of drug convictions, may have been living at his girlfriend’s residence and that there had been neighbor complaints about noise and the amount of foot traffic at the apartment, Godfrey said.

Task force officers went to the apartment, where Nava’s girlfriend admitted he was there, he said. Officers heard thumping sounds like furniture being moved as they talked to Nava’s girlfriend.

When officers entered a small bedroom, they found it empty but when they lifted the mattress, they found a handgun, Godfrey said. And when the officers lifted the box spring, they found Nava hiding inside, he added.

During a search of the apartment, officers also found a plastic-wrapped ball of meth when they pulled the bed and box spring from a wall, Godfrey said.

Nava’s girlfriend admitted that Nava had been staying at her apartment and that he would provide her meth, which they would use together, he said.

In 2011, a state district judge sentenced Nava to more than 17 years in prison, with 10 years to be served at Montana State Prison for conviction of being a persistent felony offender for felony drug crimes.

The judge also sentenced Nava to a consecutive five years for a second felony drug possession conviction and an additional two and a half years for violating parole conditions in a 2005 criminal endangerment case.

Nava faces a minimum mandatory five years to 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine on the federal crime.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Cavan said he would recommend Nava’s plea be accepted by U.S. District Judge Susan Watters, who will sentence Nava. Nava remains in custody.



Federal Court, Yellowtone County Reporter

Federal court and county reporter for The Billings Gazette.