Hardin men admit marijuana charges

2012-11-21T11:01:00Z 2012-11-21T19:53:21Z Hardin men admit marijuana chargesBy CLAIR JOHNSON cjohnson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Two more Hardin men admitted to federal marijuana charges this week in an investigation that found more than 400 marijuana plants at the home of a medical marijuana “caregiver."

Ross T. Pattison, 49, and Travis Birdinground, 44, each pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Billings on Tuesday to conspiring to maintain a drug premises.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paulette Stewart said in court records that law enforcement got a complaint in March 2011 that Pattison and Birdinground were distributing marijuana in Hardin and Big Horn County.

Pattison had a medical-marijuana card but was not listed as a “caregiver” because he is a convicted felon, she said. Birdinground also had a medical-marijuana card and was a caregiver for one patient.

In a search with a warrant of Pattison’s house and two vehicles, officers seized five pounds of marijuana, about $124,000 cash, digital scales, grocery bags full of plastic baggies, a methamphetamine pipe with residue and hashish. They also found photocopies of patient medical marijuana cards for caregivers and co-defendants Brandon Lee Strecker, 38, of Hardin; Jason Owen Gierke, 51, of Miles City; and Doran Leslie Hewitt II, 31, of Hardin, Stewart said.

A similar search of Strecker’s house turned up a total of 420 marijuana plants in his garage, bedroom, living room and a greenhouse.

Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull set sentencing for Feb. 21 for Pattison and Birdinground and continued their release. They face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a possible $500,000 fine. Pattison also faces the forfeiture of his house.

Strecker and Gierke are awaiting sentencing on similar charges. Hewitt is scheduled to plead guilty on Nov. 29.

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