Seven persons suspected of bringing pound quantities of methamphetamine from California to Billings have pleaded innocent to a five-count federal indictment.
The indictment was unsealed Thursday afternoon with the arraignment of the last defendant, Donald Luke Keller, 32, of Billings.
Defendants Byron Wayne Miller, 33, Fawn Michelle Thompson, 41, and Jesse Bassinger, 36, all of Billings, appeared for arraignment Thursday morning before U.S. Magistrate Richard Anderson.
Ryan Seder, 29, of Hardin, was arraigned Wednesday. Larry Louis Alva, 38, and Wesley Wade Kindsfather, 29, both of Billings, appeared last week.
The indictment charges the seven with conspiring to possess with intent to distribute more than 500 grams — slightly more than one pound — of meth and with counts of possession with intent to distribute. The defendants also are charged under the Pinkerton theory, which holds all defendants responsible for every count in the indictment, regardless of whether each is named in every count.
The maximum penalty for the conspiracy count and some of the possession counts is 10 years to life in prison and a $4 million fine. Two of the possession counts involving lesser amounts of meth carry maximum penalties of five to 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine.
According to the indictment, the conspiracy ran from April through June of 2000. In Salinas, Calif., Dante Landry, a drug dealer from Billings, introduced David Spencer to a man named Albert as his source for meth.
Landry was sentenced in February to 271/2 years on separate federal drug conspiracy and distribution charges involving meth. On April 27, 2000, Spencer took a rental vehicle to California to pick up 13 ounces of meth, and Bassinger received about 1 ounce.
Spencer went on another trip to California about May 11, 2000, and picked up about 20 ounces of meth. This meth was distributed to Keller, Kindsfather, Bassinger, Seder and others in ounce quantities, the indictment said.
Also during the conspiracy in late May 2000, Thompson gave Miller $5,000, and Miller and Spencer went to California to obtain more meth. Another person, Tony Havener, allegedly wired $490 to Miller in California on May 28, 2000, to help Miller and Spencer get back to Montana with 2 pounds of meth. Miller also received another wire transfer of $543 the next day while he was in California.
During that trip, Spencer and Miller picked up 2 pounds of meth from Landry through Albert. Upon arrival in Billings, Miller gave a half-pound of meth to Thompson, the indictment said. Spencer took 11/2 pounds of meth for redistribution to Seder and Keller.
In June 2000, Spencer again traveled to California to pick up a pound of meth. Seder, Keller and Alva each received ounce quantities upon Spencer's return.
Seder, Keller and Kindsfather also have pleaded innocent to charges in a separate 30-count drug conspiracy indictment. That indictment remains sealed until all defendants appear.