GREAT FALLS — A Great Falls man suspected of dealing methamphetamine and fentanyl in the Great Falls community and of illegally possessing a firearm admitted to charges today, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.
Joseph Drayton Cook, 32, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute controlled substances and to prohibited person in possession of a firearm. Cook faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years to life in prison, a $10 million fine and five years of supervised release.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. The court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Chief Judge Morris set sentencing for March 23, 2023 and continued Cook’s detention pending further proceedings.
In court documents, the government alleged that in 2017 and in 2020, Cook had been convicted in Montana state courts of felonies and was on probation for those offenses in March 2022, when Russell Country Drug Task Force agents identified Cook as a drug dealer. Agents and probation officers located Cook and approached him as he was placing items in a vehicle. During that interaction, Cook acknowledged there were drugs and a gun in the vehicles. He admitted to dealing meth and fentanyl and to having dealt heroin in the past. He also told law enforcement he knew he was a felon and not supposed to have firearms. In a search of the vehicle, law enforcement found two safes containing heroin, cocaine, fentanyl pills and meth along with a large sum of cash. Law enforcement also found a 9mm pistol in the vehicle.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan R. Plaut is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the FBI, Great Falls Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Russell Country Drug Task Force.
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.