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Stevensville man sentenced to 16 years in prison on drug trafficking operation

Ronan woman sentenced to prison for embezzling from company, evading taxes
Posted at 10:14 AM, Mar 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-22 12:14:37-04

MISSOULA - A Ravalli County man has been sentenced to 16 years in federal prison on drug charges.

Andrew Kyle Whittecar, 38, of Stevensville had been convicted of a large-scale operation to make and distribute fentanyl and methamphetamine pills that looked like legal prescription drugs, which he sold by the thousands while illegally possessing a firearm, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison, to be followed by seven years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Whittecar had pleaded guilty in October 2022 to possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, prohibited person in possession of a firearm and money laundering.

The government alleged in court documents that on April 27, 2022, the Minnesota Highway Patrol made a traffic stop of Whittecar’s vehicle. Whittecar appeared to be under the influence of narcotics, and the trooper suspected Whittecar may be trafficking drugs.

The trooper ultimately searched the vehicle and found $3,000 in cash, three grams of cocaine, more than 5,000 blue fentanyl pills, 1,000 orange pills that contained methamphetamine, a loaded Glock 17 semi-automatic handgun and an additional loaded magazine.

The government further alleged Whittecar later told law enforcement that the fentanyl and meth pills were designed to look like Percocet and Adderall, that he made between 10 to 15 trips over the last year from Seattle to Madison, Wisconsin, with the same quantity of fentanyl: approximately 5,000 pills.

Law enforcement also received reports that Whittecar, while incarcerated, had enlisted family members to move items from his shed in Stevensville to another property somewhere in the country.

Investigators executed a search warrant for the Stevensville property, which Whittecar was in the process of buying, and found a backhoe blocking entrance to a storage container.

After moving the backhoe and entering the container, agents found two pill presses, dyes, chemicals and other substances indicative of manufacturing counterfeit pills.

Some of the press heads had symbols and markings that were consistent with the pills recovered from Whittecar’s vehicle. Investigators also located a jar and a plastic baggie that contained fentanyl.

Law enforcement searched storage units used by Whittecar and found boxes containing lab equipment and glassware, which appeared consistent with a clandestine fentanyl laboratory.

Drug Enforcement Administration chemists determined that the chemicals and equipment located in the storage units were sufficient to produce fentanyl.

Agents also located a large assortment of gun parts and ammunition.

Additionally, a search of Whittecar’s three cell phones revealed suspected coded language for drug production and distribution.

In March 2021, Whittecar communicated with Yangzhou Nuoya Machinery Company Ltd to import pill presses and custom dyes and punches, and he agreed to wire money to the company.

The government also alleged that Whittecar laundered his drug profits by buying several high-end vehicles, a backhoe, a trailer and additional equipment to continue his enterprise.

Whittecar forfeited a 2015 Cadillac Escalade, a 2008 Ford F-450, a 2019 Ford F-450, a flatbed trailer, a backhoe, $3,000 in currency and the Glock 17 handgun and ammunition as part of his conviction in the case.

Whittecar was convicted in 2019 of three federal felonies in Washington and was prohibited from possessing a firearm for life.

U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy presided.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot and Assistant U.S. Attorney Karla E. Painter prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Minnesota State Patrol, West Central Minnesota Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, Missoula High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, Montana Division of Criminal Investigation and the Ravalli County Sheriff's Office.