James F. Battin Federal Courthouse

James F. Battin Federal Courthouse

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff

Two men accused in a meth trafficking conspiracy in Sidney admitted federal drug charges in U.S. District Court in Billings this week.

Bobby Payne, 45, of Glendive, and Anthony Cordell Couture, 48, of Sidney, each pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute as part of plea deals with prosecutors. Other counts are to be dismissed at sentencing.

Payne appeared on Wednesday, while Couture appeared on Thursday.

A third co-defendant, Tiffaney Ann Boland, has pleaded not guilty.

The defendants got indicted after an undercover investigation by law enforcement beginning in September 2016 into meth trafficking activity that used the Sidney Shuttle Service, a local transportation service.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Dake said law enforcement got information that Payne, a shuttle driver, may be selling drugs while operating the shuttle because the shuttle was making a large number of undocumented stops in the Sidney and Fairview areas.

In early October 2016, an undercover agent called the shuttle service requesting a ride and talked to Payne. Payne drove a shuttle to a convenience store where he and the agent discussed a meth sale. Payne dropped off the agent at a restaurant and then returned a short time later and sold the agent about a gram of meth for $125. The agent also paid $15 for the shuttle ride.

Payne sold the agent more meth in a series of buys that also involved Boland and Couture, Dake said.

In one of the deals, Payne and the agent went to Payne’s residence and Boland and Couture arrived. Boland brought a scale and sold the agent about 28 grams, or about an ounce, for $1,200, Dake said. Additional sales also were discussed, he said.

U.S. District Judge Susan Watters set sentencing for both men for March 15 and continued their release. The maximum penalty is a minimum mandatory 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine.

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Locations

Federal Court, Yellowtone County Reporter

Federal court and county reporter for The Billings Gazette.