At a press conference in Missoula on Friday, U.S. Attorney for the State of Montana, Mike Cotter, announced that an operation in western Montana had been completed that convicted eight defendants for methamphetamine distribution and illegal firearms possession.

“This operation put an end to organizations that were delivering dangerous drugs straight into our Montana communities,” said Cotter, U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana. “Methamphetamine has a devastating ripple effect—it ruins lives, families and communities. I am proud of the hard work and long hours the members of this operation invested in these cases. Our state is a safer place as a result.”

A press release from the U.S. Justice Department stated that the operation, which joined numerous law enforcement agencies in Montana and was spearheaded by the Montana Regional Violent Crime Task Force, involved conspiracies to distribute approximately 11 pounds of methamphetamine in Montana, orchestrated by Richard Stroh, Logan Weniger, Neal Maddox, Misty Beck, and others. Nearly all eight defendants illegally possessed firearms and all were sentenced to at least 51 months in federal prison. Chief U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen sentenced Weniger to 17.5 years and Maddox to 15 years in prison.

“This operation put an end to organizations that were delivering dangerous drugs straight into our Montana communities,” said Cotter, U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana. “Methamphetamine has a devastating ripple effect—it ruins lives, families and communities. I am proud of the hard work and long hours the members of this operation invested in these cases. Our state is a safer place as a result.”

A press release from the U.S. Justice Department stated that the operation, which joined numerous law enforcement agencies in Montana and was spearheaded by the Montana Regional Violent Crime Task Force, involved conspiracies to distribute approximately 11 pounds of methamphetamine in Montana, orchestrated by Richard Stroh, Logan Weniger, Neal Maddox, Misty Beck, and others. Nearly all eight defendants illegally possessed firearms and all were sentenced to at least 51 months in federal prison. Chief U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen sentenced Weniger to 17.5 years and Maddox to 15 years in prison.

Task Force member Guy Baker of the Missoula Police Department said the investigation has been ongoing since 2015, and was successfully completed at the end of 2016.

“This was an investigation conducted by the Montana Regional Violent Crime Task Force, which is an FBI task force based here in Missoula,” Baker said. “It’s comprised of the Missoula Police Department, Missoula County Sheriff’s Department, Montana Department of Corrections, Montana Division of Criminal Investigation, the FBI, and the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Department.”

Baker said the weapons that were seized came from the arrests of multiple suspects.

“These weapons were used in the trafficking of methamphetamine in and around Missoula,” he said. “They included some assault rifles, a couple of grenade launchers, four suppressors, and then one converted full-auto machine gun.”

Baker said the methamphetamine is primarily coming from what are called ‘super-labs’ in Mexico.

“The meth that we see is primarily of a very high purity, up to 98 or 99 percent pure,” he said. “The reason this is happening here and elsewhere is the substantial profitability or methamphetamine distribution, so people with connections can get a pound of meth for $5,000 or $6,000 dollars in larger cities, and then bring it to Montana where they can get up to $900 an ounce, so they can easily triple their money.”

All members of the drug trafficking organizations pleaded guilty to federal charges ranging from conspiracy to distribute meth to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.