Great Falls meth trafficker sentenced to 54 months in prison

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

GREAT FALLS – A Great Falls woman who admitted to working with others to bring  approximately seven pounds of methamphetamine from Las Vegas, Nevada, back to Montana for distribution was sentenced today to 54 months in prison, to be followed by four years of supervised release, said U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.

Ashley Nicole Rico, 34, pleaded guilty in October 2021 to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided.

The government alleged in court documents that Rico pooled money with co-defendants and traveled with them to Las Vegas, Nevada, to buy meth. Rico waited while co-defendants went to the source and purchased the meth and then traveled back to Montana with them. Law enforcement intervened before Rico received her portion of the meth. Law enforcement seized approximately seven pounds of meth. Officers ultimately stopped a vehicle being driven by co-defendant Lillian Lapier and found about 3.6 pounds of meth in the trunk. Law enforcement also executed a search warrant on the Helena residence of co-defendant, Rhonda Lapier, and located three, one-pound bags of meth and $6,132 in a bedroom. Officers stopped another suspect vehicle, driven by Rico, who was arrested on a state warrant. Rico admitted to distributing meth in Great Falls and that she and others had traveled to Las Vegas, picked up meth there and had contributed $1,000 to the deal. Seven pounds of meth is the equivalent of approximately 25,368 doses.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan R. Plaut prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Russell Country Drug Task Force, the Missouri River Drug Task Force, FBI, Great Falls Police Department, Cascade County Sheriff’s Office and Lewis & Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

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This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a U.S. Department of Justice initiative to reduce violent crime. Through PSN, federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement partners in Montana focus on violent crime driven by methamphetamine trafficking, armed robbers, firearms offenses and violent offenders with outstanding warrants.

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