Three arrested in methamphetamine bust
Editor's note: Due to a communication mishap, the Big Horn County News incorrectly attributed this article to Crow Nation News when it was, in fact, largely written by the Billings Gazette staff under the title of "3 appear in federal court on meth distribution charges." The News regrets the error.
A helicopter could be heard from above last Thursday morning as law enforcement officers from local and federal agencies advanced from the ground and air on a home in Crow Agency. Their targets were three individuals, who were arrested that day as part of an alleged drug trafficking ring in Billings, Hardin and Crow Agency.
Kevin Torres-Ochoa, 27, and Mary Elizabeth Rock Big Man, 36, have both been charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Joshua Lee Hagen, 40, faces the charge of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.
All three made initial appearances in Billings at U.S. District Court on Friday before Magistrate Carolyn Ostby.
The interagency Eastern Montana High-Intensity Drug Task Force and the FBI’s Big Sky Safe Streets Task Force began investigating the meth trafficking ring in June 2015, according to court documents.
Law enforcement searched Big Man’s Crow Agency home last Thursday.
Investigators determined that Big Man was responsible for storing and helping to distribute the meth, charges state.
In an interview with task force officers, Big Man said she’d met Torres-Ochoa and that they had a relationship. Charges quote Big Man as saying that she let people store meth in a Hardin storage unit and tried to wire money to another person in the drug ring.
Torres-Ochoa told investigators that he had lived on the Crow Reservation for eight months, charges state, and he admitted his involvement in trafficking meth from San Jose, Calif.
According to court documents, he would receive packages of methamphetamine in the mail. He was paid with either cash or meth. The drugs would sell for $4,000 per ounce, charges state.
Hagen was arrested in March, when officers searched his home. Court documents state the officers found a half-pound of meth, scales, drug ledgers, and nine guns and ammunition.
Hagen’s name doesn’t appear in the charging documents for Torres-Ochoa or Big Man, but investigators began looking into his activity at the same time. All three were charged on the same date and appeared in court on the same day.
Torres-Ochoa and Big Man face a minimum of 10 years to life in prison. Hagen faces a minimum of five years to 40 years. On Friday, all three suspects were being held in the Yellowstone County Detention Facility.
According to witnesses of the arrest, law enforcement staged a well-calculated approach toward the entrance. One loud bang followed by another, woke people up in the neighborhood. The officers used an element of surprise as they came into the neighborhood while it was still dark. A helicopter was used as well to monitor the area from the sky.
All three suspects are currently being held in the Yellowstone County Detention Facility.