For almost 20 months, Billings resident Benjamin Quinn McChesney has been on the lam, fleeing rather than facing a felony drug trial in state District Court.
But McChesney, who has beaten drug and domestic violence charges, is back in custody, this time facing federal kidnapping charges involving his wife and a minor child.
The U.S. Marshals Service tracked McChesney, 35, to Mexico and arrested him recently with help from authorities there, Rod Ostermiller, chief deputy, said this week. “We’ve known he’s been in Mexico for quite some time. He was fairly well established,” he said.
Deputies and local law enforcement arrested McChesney without incident on Jan. 12 in Guanajuato, in central Mexico, Ostermiller said.
Authorities brought McChesney back to the U.S. and he appeared in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Jan. 16 on a warrant in the Montana federal case. McChesney will be transported to Billings for prosecution on the kidnapping charges. A court date has not been set.
A two-count indictment filed in January 2012 and unsealed this week charges McChesney with kidnapping and kidnapping involving a minor. The government says McChesney kidnapped Meagan McChesney-Dovel, his wife, and a minor child in May 2011.
McChesney was set to go trial in May 2011 on marijuana charges but he failed to show up. State prosecutors filed felony bail-jumping charges and issued an arrest warrant.
A federal criminal complaint charging McChesney with flight to avoid prosecution was filed in July 2011.
McChesney spent five years in federal prison for a drug conviction before successfully arguing on his own behalf that he deserved a new trial. Prosecutors declined to retry him, and McChesney was released in 2009.
He then was accused twice in 2010 of assaulting his wife, who later recanted her account of the first assault. The second assault led to the marijuana charge against McChesney. State prosecutors also issued a warrant for Meagan McChesney, saying she was an uncooperative material witness in the drug case.
Both McChesneys were considered state and federal fugitives.
Meagan McChesney was arrested in July 2011 in Texas as she and a minor child tried to enter the Untied States at a border crossing, court records said. The child was placed in protective custody.
According to federal court documents, Meagan McChesney told investigators that six days before her husband’s trial, Ben McChesney took her and the child to Missouri to spend a few days. From there, two other men drove the McChesneys and the child to Laredo, Texas.
At that point, Meagan McChesney said her husband threatened her with a knife and told her she was not free to go. The three crossed on foot into Mexico, and from there, the McChesneys took a bus to Guanajuato, where her husband rented an apartment. Meagan McChesney and the child eventually escaped.
Meagan McChesney told investigators that her husband was concerned about his legal problems and fled, taking her along because of her potential testimony.
Kidnapping carries a punishment of a maximum of life in prison and a possible $250,000 fine, while kidnapping involving a minor carries a minimum of 20 years to life in prison and a possible $250,000 fine.