Winchell co-conspirator is sentenced


A Havre man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for his involvement with an area methamphetamine ring.

Thomas Walter Anderson, 41, was sentenced in Great Falls late last month after pleading guilty to federal drug and weapons charges. The sentence will run consecutively with an eight-month sentence he received in February for counterfeiting U.S. currency.

Anderson was a player in a large Havre drug conspiracy, according to a press release from the Tri-Agency Task Force. He was responsible for distributing drugs with Matthew Douglas Winchell, 53, and a number of other co-conspirators, the task force said. Four people involved with the ring were sentenced to prison last month, including Winchell, who received 26 years.

Anderson was charged in U.S. District Court with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and use or possession of a handgun during a drug trafficking crime. He pleaded guilty to the charges earlier this year.

He was sentenced to 10 years and one month in prison for the drug offense and an additional five years for the gun charge.

The charges stemmed from a lengthy Tri-Agency Task Force and FBI investigation. The case against Anderson was built on several undercover drug buys and the yields of a September drug raid, according to court documents and the task force.

On Dec. 18, 2001, agents from the task force conducted a controlled drug purchase and recorded the deal using electronic surveillance equipment, the task force said.

On Sept. 19, 2002, the task force served a search warrant at Anderson's residence in Havre. During the search, agents located marijuana, meth, cash, drug paraphernalia and three handguns, according to the task force. Anderson was arrested and charged with several drug offenses in state District Court.

He posted $25,000 bond and was released Oct. 19, 2002. Six days later, the task force again conducted a controlled purchase, this time buying 3.8 grams of meth, the task force said. Agents monitored the transaction.

Anderson was again arrested. However, the charges in state District Court were dismissed after prosecutors filed charges in federal court using the same evidence.

Law enforcement officers often seek charges in federal court because the penalties for drug offenders are more severe.

Previous to the drug charges, Anderson was also charged in federal court with counterfeiting U.S. currency. He pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced in February to eight months in prison. Anderson was arrested in July 2002 after he attempted to use several phony $100 bills at local casinos. Local law enforcement alerted the Secret Service, who later arrested Anderson.

Agents recovered the phony bills and discovered that they all had the same serial number and lacked water marks and security stripes, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. Agents determined the bills had been produced on a color printer.


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