GREAT FALLS — On Wednesday, August 17, 2022, a federal jury convicted Aaron Ramirez Espinoza of drug trafficking charges after he was accused of bringing methamphetamine and fentanyl to Great Falls and the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation for distribution, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said in a news release.
After a two-day trial that began on August 16, the jury found Espinoza of Yakima, Washington, guilty of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances as charged in a superseding indictment.
In court documents and at trial, the government alleged that in May 2021, law enforcement officers seized fentanyl pills from a witness, who identified his suppliers as a group of men from Yakima. The investigation led to Espinoza being identified as a member of this group.
Officers learned that Espinoza was bringing drugs to Montana for distribution. On May 12, 2022, officers arrested Espinoza at a Great Falls gas station, searched him, and found in his jacket pocket a pouch containing a bag of meth and two bags of fentanyl pills. Officers also found a scale, a number of credit cards, and a Washington ID card.
Espinoza told law enforcement he was in a gang in Washington and that the drugs recovered were for personal use.
However, Espinoza later said he had been going to meet someone at the business but that they never showed up and that he was “trying to make a living.”
Espinoza faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years to life in prison, a $10 million fine, and at least five years of supervised release.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Morris presided and scheduled sentencing for December 1. The court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Espinoza, 37 years old, remains detained pending further proceedings.
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