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California woman admits having meth and guns in her backpack in trafficking conspiracy
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California woman admits having meth and guns in her backpack in trafficking conspiracy

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A California woman on Wednesday admitted federal drug trafficking in which prosecutors said she was part of group that brought methamphetamine to Montana for distribution.

Roper Ray Blankenship, 22, of Patterson, Calif., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute meth during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Billings. Two other counts are to be dismissed at sentencing under a plea agreement.

Prosecutor Colin Rubich said in court records that Blankenship conspired with co-defendants Michael Vincent Villalobos, Teal Cherie Harris and Devin Allen Mitchell in the meth ring.

In February 2015, Sidney Police Department law enforcement officers pulled over Villalobos and Blankenship, Rubich said. During the execution of a search warrant on the vehicle, officers found 72.3 grams of meth and a .38-caliber revolver.

Through a confidential informant, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration learned that Villalobos had meth mailed to him from California connections and that he regularly sent drug proceeds back to California, Rubich said.

In September 2015, Miles City Police Department officers attempted to make a traffic stop of Villalobos’ vehicle. When the vehicle stopped, its occupants, including Villalobos and Blankenship, fled the scene.

After getting a search warrant for the vehicle, officers found a backpack with identification belonging to Blankenship, 35.74 grams of meth and a .22-caliber gun.

Officers also found a cellphone belonging to Blankenship. After getting another search warrant for the phone’s data, officers found Facebook messages in which Blankenship admitted that the meth and guns seized in both traffic stops belonged to her, Rubich said.

Blankenship faces a minimum mandatory five years to 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby said she would recommend that District Judge Susan Watters accept Blankenship’s plea. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

Villalobos and Harris pleaded guilty to charges and are awaiting sentencing. Mitchell was sentenced to time served of four days and five years of supervised release for her conviction in the case.

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Federal Court, Yellowtone County Reporter

Federal court and county reporter for The Billings Gazette.

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