MADISON, WIS. – Timothy M. O’Shea, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Christopher Fernette, 45, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge William M. Conley to 120 months in federal prison for possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute. Fernette pleaded guilty to this charge on April 6, 2022. Judge Conley also ordered Fernette to forfeit $17,200.
During the course of a long-term, multi-agency investigation, law enforcement officers determined that a group of people, including Fernette, distributed significant amounts of methamphetamine in western Wisconsin. Investigators also learned that Fernette purchased methamphetamine from sources-of-supply who lived in multiple states.
On April 3, 2021, investigators followed Fernette as he and a passenger crossed into Wisconsin from Minnesota. When the car stopped at a tavern in Ferryville, a deputy from the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office approached Fernette and asked for permission to pat him down for weapons. Fernette consented to the pat down but attempted to hide a small plastic baggie in his hand. When the deputy questioned Fernette about the object in his hand, Fernette tossed the baggie and became combative. A fight ensued and the deputy eventually detained Fernette.
After the altercation, the deputy located the baggie and determined that it contained a personal use amount of methamphetamine. The deputy then found a discarded black canvas tool bag in a ditch that contained approximately three pounds of methamphetamine. The deputy used his canine partner to sniff the car that Fernette had been driving. When the canine alerted, investigators searched the car and found $17,200 in cash.
During a post-arrest interview, Fernette waived his Miranda rights and admitted that he and the passenger drove to Minnesota to purchase the methamphetamine found inside the black canvas bag. Fernette also explained that he and the passenger planned to split the methamphetamine with a third person in Wisconsin.
At sentencing, Judge Conley noted that the three pounds of methamphetamine found on April 3, 2021 likely understated the total amount of methamphetamine that Fernette sold on the street.
The charge against Fernette was the result of an investigation conducted by the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, Prairie du Chien Police Department, Richland-Iowa-Grant Task Force, Dakota County (Minnesota) Drug Task Force, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chadwick M. Elgersma prosecuted this case.