By Tim Eberly
One man has been sentenced recently for dealing drugs on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and several others have been arraigned on similar charges.
On Sept. 13, Leon Boyd Messerly, 31, was sentenced to two years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Great Falls to charges of possessing and distributing methamphetamine. Messerly, who had no prior drug convictions, was also ordered to serve a three-year supervised release and 120 hours of community service.
After a Sept. 18 arrest on a charge of producing and manufacturing meth on the reservation, 34-year-old Donald Blatt pleaded innocent on Sept. 26 in Great Falls. Blatt faces up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $1 million fine and three years' supervised release.
The third drug bust on Fort Belknap involved a man from Texas. Oscar Villazana, 27, of Houston and Thomas Robert King, 29, of Billings pleaded guilty Wednesday in Great Falls to drug trafficking charges. In custody in the Cascade County jail, both admitted to conspiring to distribute marijuana and face sentencing on Feb. 19.
Law enforcement officers arrested four individuals, including Villazana and King, in a 1962 Oldsmobile outside the VFW club in Harlem on May 20 after an undercover agent purchased two ounces of marijuana from them for $280, according to the offer of proof from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The other two men in the car Matthew Stiffarm, 22, and Garrett Snell, 21, both of Fort Belknap pleaded guilty to separate state charges on Sept. 10 in Blaine County. Stiffarm, who will be sentenced on Oct. 22, pleaded guilty to criminal possession of dangerous drugs by accountability, a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $50,000 fine. After pleading guilty of criminal possession of dangerous drugs with the intent to distribute, Snell will be sentenced on Oct. 10. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
The FBI and TATF learned that King and Villazana had been staying at Fort Belknap for two days and that King had about 11 ounces of marijuana, according to the offer of proof. During a search of their temporary residence at Fort Belknap, agents seized marijuana and drug paraphernalia and found a digital scale, plastic Ziplock bags and a small amount of marijuana in their luggage An undisclosed amount of marijuana was also seized from the Oldsmobile after it fell from under the dashboard, said the offer of proof.
Blatt, a Hays resident, was in the act of making meth when law enforcement agents arrested him on Sept. 18, according to the FBI in Havre. Acting on a tip, FBI and TATF agents monitored Blatt while he purchased necessary ingredients to make meth and cooked them on a hot plate, the FBI said. Agents arrested Blatt after an hour of surveillance.
Weeks before, investigators had unearthed a full-sized meth lab near Chinook they believe was operated by Blatt, according to the TATF.
Messerly was arrested Jan. 16 after selling meth in his residence, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lori Harper Suek.
"It was basically a straightforward controlled purchase," she said Thursday.
After obtaining a search warrant, the FBI and TATF entered Messerly's trailer in the Half Town area on the reservation. According to the Havre FBI, agents discovered Messerly crouching behind a bed in a rear bedroom when they arrived. Seventeen grams of meth were found in his home and on his person, along with $800 in cash and a handgun, the FBI said. When agents patted Messerly down, they found a plastic pill bottle containing 13 individually wrapped paper bindles of meth that appeared ready for distribution, agents said.
Anyone with information about the possession, purchase or distribution of illegal drugs is asked to call the Havre FBI at 265-7181 or the TATF at 265-1192.