California man admits trafficking meth into Butte community

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FILE PHOTO: American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington

MISSOULA — A California man suspected of shipping methamphetamine into the Butte community for redistribution admitted to a trafficking charge today, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Heriberto Tavares, 29, of Anaheim, California, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute meth. Tavares faces a mandatory minimum five years to 40 years in prison, a $5 million fine and at least four years of supervised release. Tavares was detained pending further proceedings.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto presided. A sentencing date was set for February 21, 2023, before U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen. The court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other sentencing factors.

In court documents, the government alleged Tavares was trafficking meth from about November 2018 to November 2019. Law enforcement learned that Tavares was shipping drugs, which originated in Mexico, into Montana from California. During an undercover operation, an agent ordered meth from Humberto Villareal, of Sinaloa, Mexico, who was sentenced in 2021 to 17 years in federal prison for conviction of meth trafficking in the Butte area. In July 2019, law enforcement received a package, sent from Tavares, that contained 474 grams, or a little more than one pound, of meth and 37 grams of heroin. Agents paid for the drugs Tavares sent by wiring money to Ricardo Ramos Medina, in Sinaloa, Mexico. Medina was sentenced in 2020 to eight years in federal prison for conviction on trafficking pounds of meth and other drugs to the Butte area.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan G. Weldon is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Postal Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Montana Division of Criminal Investigation and Butte-Silver Bow Police.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

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