I have seen a lot of articles like these on the internet. Someone from another state with connections in California, gets caught with pounds from “Northern California” This case in particular reveals some serious investigation techniques by the feds. This article comes from the Missoulian. Most people are aware that Montana is another emerging marijuana market, but it might not be a good idea to take those “Northern California” pounds to Montana after harvest.
A Missoula man whose black market drug connections in Northern California allegedly furnished local medical marijuana dispensaries with pot pleaded guilty this week to a federal offense.
Richard James Biggs, 31, was arrested May 12 after a monthslong investigation by drug task force officers in Missoula and Great Falls. He was initially charged in state district court, where prosecutors alleged a business relationship with a medical marijuana caregiver in Missoula, but the case was filed in federal court in June.
At a change-of-plea hearing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Missoula, Biggs admitted to a count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana. A plea agreement in the case dismisses a separate felony count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
Biggs is currently released on electronic monitoring and other conditions. He faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, and could be sentenced to as many as 40 years in prison, fined $2 million, and placed on supervised release for four years. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 4.
Authorities arrested Biggs on Interstate 90 while he was returning from a four-day trip to Humboldt County, Calif. – sometimes called the Emerald Triangle because of its reputation as a center for marijuana cultivation. During a roadside search of Biggs’ Chevy Avalanche, detectives found 72 pounds of marijuana and $39,500 in hundred-dollar bills. A confidential informant in Missoula told investigators that Biggs had supplied him with more than 100 kilograms of marijuana between July 2007 and May 2010.
Authorities seized vacuum-sealed plastic bags containing 20 different strains of marijuana. The types of marijuana strains were written in black marker on the bags, and included names such as Grape Crush, Blue Train Wreck and Willy Wonder.
Just prior to the Northern California trip, investigators in Missoula followed Biggs to a meeting with a medical marijuana caregiver, Victor Hernandez, who is also a partner in a medical marijuana dispensary.
“The investigation has revealed evidence that the various strains of marijuana match up with the strains of marijuana available from several local medical marijuana dispensaries in the Missoula area,” according to charging records filed in Missoula District Court, where the case was initially charged. “It is believed that several local dispensaries have been supplied with marijuana by Biggs through his black market deals originating in Northern California.”
Investigators believe Biggs had a business relationship with Hernandez, the caregiver, and was illegally supplying pound quantities of marijuana to his dispensary and others. No federal charges have been filed against Hernandez.
Hernandez lived with Biggs prior to Biggs’ federal drug conviction in 2004. In that case, Biggs was convicted of marijuana possession with intent to distribute, and served time in a federal prison. The caregiver also drives the Lincoln Navigator that Biggs owned before his arrest in 2004.
Although Biggs has no apparent source of income, he owns houses in Las Vegas and Missoula, and the investigation revealed that he made 42 trips to Las Vegas between July 2008 and his arrest.
The defendant’s guilty plea comes on the heels of a federal defender’s attempt to suppress the marijuana seized from Biggs’ Chevy Avalanche. The attorney, federal defender John Rhodes, argued the search warrant was improper because authorities lacked probable cause.
In a motion to suppress, Rhodes wrote that Biggs became a person of interest to federal investigators while they were investigating another drug trafficker, whose vehicle they were tracking with a GPS device. That drug dealer repeatedly visited Biggs’ South Hills home, and authorities knew Biggs had a previous drug conviction.
Rhodes argued the investigators drew conclusions about Biggs’ relationship with the drug dealer that required “a far leap from the facts presented.”
“The hunch or guess of the investigating officer is not backed by additional facts or by specific knowledge or training,” Rhodes wrote in his motion to suppress.
Reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at 523-5264 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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