- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A 61-year-old south-central Montana man has pleaded guilty to federal charges after prosecutors say he distributed about 178 pounds of methamphetamine.

Merrill Clark Gardner of Fishtail pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to possess meth for distribution, The Billings Gazette (https://bit.ly/1PMdXNI) reported. Gardner faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. He consented to the forfeiture of his home and more than $100,000 in cash and gold and silver coins.

Gardner was arrested in June after giving a customer-turned-informant more than a pound of meth, prosecutors said.

His plea agreement calls for a count of possession with intent to distribute be dismissed. A search of his property and a separate storage site turned up five more pounds of the drug, court records said.

U.S. District Judge Susan Watters denied Gardner’s request that he be released pending his March 3 sentencing.

Gardiner apologized but said he’s “not the kingpin, long-time criminal the prosecution says I am.”

Co-defendant Brett Wade Clouse of Absarokee told agents he acted as Gardner’s courier, making seven trips to Tucson, Arizona, between January 2013 and June 2015 and bringing back about 178 pounds of the drug to Gardner. He has pleaded not guilty to four felony counts, including conspiracy and possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, https://www.billingsgazette.com


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