James F. Battin Federal Courthouse

James F. Battin Federal Courthouse

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff

A Lame Deer man charged in a large meth conspiracy that admitted on Wednesday that he distributed the drug on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.

Thomas Spang, 36, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute meth during a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Cavan of Billings.

Spang was charged separately as part of a large trafficking case in which prosecutors said meth was brought to the Billings area for redistribution in the community and on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations.

Spang admitted to trafficking meth from about 2012 until September 2016, when he got arrested in Riverton, Wyoming, and was prosecuted for having about 100 grams of meth in his vehicle.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Branden McCarthy said during law enforcement’s investigation of Spang, Spang admitted to getting two to three ounces of meth every two weeks from Mario Martinez-Banderas, a fugitive under federal indictment since 2015. He also identified associates of Martinez-Banderas, he said.

Shortly before his Wyoming arrest, Spang met Martinez-Banderas and followed his vehicle to the Crow Agency residence of Mary Rock Big Man, where Martinez-Banderas met an associate, Kevin Torres-Ochoa.

Both Rock Big Man and Torres-Ochoa have been convicted in the conspiracy. Rock Big Man admitted to helping store about five pounds of meth for the organization and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Torres-Ochoa is awaiting sentencing. He told investigators that Rock Big Man was his wife and admitted to working with a drug group in San Jose, California, and to receiving five or six one-pound packages of meth for delivery to others.

After meeting Torres-Ochoa, Spang followed Martinez-Banderas to the Billings residence of Joshua Hagen, off of Old Hardin Road, McCarthy said. Spang waited outside until a man came out and gave him about six ounces of meth, he said. Spang then returned home to Lame Deer.

McCarthy said Spang “positively identified” Hagen as the man who gave him the six ounces of meth and also identified a photo of Ochoa-Torres.

Spang denied having identified Hagen as the man who gave him the meth.

Also this week, Hagen pleaded guilty on Tuesday during a hearing before Cavan to conspiracy to possess meth for distribution as charged in an indictment for his role in the case.

Hagen faces a minimum mandatory 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine. Spang faces a maximum 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Cavan said he would recommend Hagen’s and Spang’s pleas be accepted by U.S. District Judge Susan Watters, who will sentence them. Hagen is on release, while Spang remains in custody.

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Federal Court, Yellowtone County Reporter

Federal court and county reporter for The Billings Gazette.