MISSOULA - A Mexican citizen admitted to drug charges on Thursday in a Missoula federal courtroom.
U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich says Cuauhtemoc Cervantes Samaniego admitted to allegations that he trafficked fentanyl in the Kalispell area after law enforcement seized 12,000 fentanyl pills, more than $72,000 in U.S. currency and a pistol from his vehicle.
Samaniego, 30, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. He faces a mandatory minimum of five years to 40 years in prison, a $5 million fine and at least four years of supervised release.
The government alleged in court documents that Samaniego trafficked fentanyl in the Kalispell area from about May 2022 through Oct. 5, 2022.
Investigators received information in October that Samaniego was in Kalispell with a large amount of fentanyl to distribute.
At about 2:50 a.m. on Oct. 5, law enforcement officers located Samaniego at a gas station in Kalispell and searched his vehicle.
According to a news release, officers found 12,000 fentanyl pills, $72,687 in U.S. currency and a 9mm pistol.
An individual later told an agent that Samaniego had met with a person prior to law enforcement stopping him and that Samaniego had provided the person with fentanyl pills.
The person gave Samaniego a firearm.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto presided. A sentencing date was set for Sept. 21 before U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer S. Clark is prosecuting the case. Homeland Security Investigations and the Montana Highway Patrol conducted the investigation.