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Narcotics
02/07/2018

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Montana man sentenced to 12 ½ years in federal prison for local methamphetamine distribution ring

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — A Montana man was sentenced Wednesday to 12 ½ years in federal prison for trafficking methamphetamine in Montana.

This sentenced was announced by U.S. Attorney Kurt G. Alme, District of Montana.  This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Russell Country Drug Task Force.

Michael Lee Lira, 53, of Billings, Montana, was sentenced Feb. 7 to 150 months in prison, five years of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment. U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided over the hearing.

In the fall of 2016, the Russell Country Drug Task Force began investigating Lira for trafficking methamphetamine in Montana. Through further investigation, law enforcement became aware that Lira, who lived in Billings, Montana, distributed methamphetamine for Great Falls, Montana, resident Robert Linn Jr.  Linn was previously sentenced to 276 months in prison for his role in this crime.

On April 8, 2017, law enforcement learned that Lira planned to pick up methamphetamine from Linn that day. Agents also learned that Lira and Linn arranged to meet at a gas station near Lewistown, Montana. Law enforcement followed Linn throughout the early morning as he traveled around Great Falls. Linn eventually began to drive eastbound out of Great Falls toward Lewistown. Meanwhile, agents followed Lira as he left Billings and drove toward Lewistown.

Around mid-morning, agents observed Lira park next to Linn’s truck in a gas station parking lot. Lira exited his car to speak with Linn. A few minutes later, Lira left Linn’s truck, retrieved a bag from his car, and placed the bag in the back passenger seat of Linn’s truck. About 20 minutes later, Lira and Linn exited Linn’s truck. Lira grabbed a black bag from Linn’s truck and placed it in the Lira’s car. Linn then drove back to Great Falls, while Lira drove east and entered a neighboring colony outside of Lewistown.

Agents waited outside of a colony building for Lira but eventually knocked on the door. A woman answered the door and stated that Lira was in a trailer behind the building. Agents proceeded to the trailer and Lira opened the door. Based on the gathered information, agents arrested Lira and initially located a small baggie of methamphetamine in his coat.

Soon thereafter, law enforcement searched Lira’s car for the suspected methamphetamine. Lira stated the contraband was located in a red toolbox in the back of the car. Agents located a large plastic bag inside the box, and seized four large bundles of methamphetamine contained in the bag. The DEA laboratory analyzed the methamphetamine seized from Lira and determined the methamphetamine had a net weight of 1793 grams and a substance purity of 99 percent. This resulted in 1775 grams, or about four pounds, of actual methamphetamine. The methamphetamine seized from Lira’s coat had a net weight of 4.264 grams and a substance purity of 99 percent. This resulted in 4.221 grams of actual methamphetamine.

During a subsequent interview, Lira explained that he began by only selling an ounce of methamphetamine at a time. However, he quickly moved up to dealing more significant amounts of methamphetamine. Lira believed he received a pound of methamphetamine from Linn by August and September 2016. Lira then recounted that he got two pounds of methamphetamine in December 2016, and an additional two pounds of methamphetamine in January and February 2017.

Lira has an extensive criminal history that includes prior felony convictions for narcotics, burglaries, assaults and firearms.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Betley, District of Montana.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 02/08/2018