Two Canadians arrested in Glendive last year admitted Tuesday they tried to bring an estimated $5.5 million worth of Ecstasy pills into the United States.
The seizure last February of more than 200,000 pills was thought to be the state's biggest bust for Ecstasy.
Alan James Mulder, 20, and Christian D. Laurin, 20, both of Winnipeg, Manitoba, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Billings to conspiracy to possess the drug for distribution. A second count of possession with intent to distribute is to be dismissed at sentencing under the terms of a plea agreement.
A third co-defendant, Timothy M. Morneau, 32, also of Winnipeg, is set for a jury trial Monday.
The three were arrested Feb. 9 in Glendive after a Montana Highway Patrol trooper stopped their vehicle for having a headlight out on Interstate 94. Inconsistent statements given by the three men prompted the trooper to ask for consent to search the vehicle. Mulder, who was the registered owner and a passenger in the back seat, consented.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Seykora said that because of bad weather, the search was conducted at the MHP office in Glendive. Officers found three duffel bags in the trunk. They opened one and found a plastic bag wrapped in tape containing tablets with dolphin logos. The trooper recognized the logo as indicating Ecstasy, a hallucinogen and stimulant.
Officers arrested the men and got a search warrant.
The search, Seykora said, turned up 223,810 Ecstasy pills with a net weight of 64 kilograms, or about 141 pounds. An analysis of the pills determined the actual amount of Ecstasy was about 23 kilograms or 51 pounds, he said.
Ecstasy sells on the street for about $25 a pill, making the seizure worth about $5.5 million, drug agents said earlier. Ecstasy is manufactured in Canada and in Amsterdam, with large quantities usually headed to the West Coast.
Morneau told the trooper he hauled three duffel bags across the Canadian border on a snowmobile that he had left north of Bottineau, N.D., court records said. Laurin and Mulder helped him and were to be paid $1,000 each from the $5,000 he was to get for hauling drugs, he told the trooper.
Mulder and Laurin face a minimum mandatory 10 years to life in prison and a maximum fine of $4 million.
Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull set sentencing for April 8. Mulder and Laurin remain in custody.