BILLINGS – A Florida man admitted Wednesday to a drug-trafficking crime after the Montana Highway Patrol seized 78 pounds of nearly pure methamphetamine, which is more than a quarter of a million doses, during a traffic stop in February near Columbus, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said in a news release.
Nichols James Imhoff, 30, of Cape Coral, Florida, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute meth. Imhoff faces a minimum mandatory 10 years in prison, a $10 million fine and at least five years of supervised release.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Cavan presided. Imhoff was detained pending further proceedings. Sentencing will be set by U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen.
The prosecution said in court documents that on Feb. 11, a Montana Highway Patrol trooper stopped an eastbound Dodge Caravan for speeding on Interstate 90 near Columbus. Imhoff, the driver, provided a Florida driver's license, a rental contract for the vehicle from Las Vegas, and told the trooper he was headed back to work in the oilfields in North Dakota. Imhoff's explanations and other observations led the trooper to suspect Imhoff was transporting drugs.
The trooper deployed his canine on the vehicle, and the dog alerted to the presence of drugs. Imhoff's vehicle was impounded in Columbus, and the officer obtained a Montana search warrant. During a search of the vehicle, officers seized about 78 pound of meth, which is the equivalent of 282,672 doses. The meth was located under a floor storage compartment in the second seat area and was in white plastic garbage bags. Some of the meth was packaged in vacuum sealed plastic bags and some was wrapped in gray duct tape. An analysis by a Drug Enforcement Administration lab determined the meth was 98 percent pure.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Patten is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Montana Highway Patrol.