GREAT FALLS — A woman accused of working with others to bring methamphetamine from Las Vegas back to Montana for distribution admitted in federal court in Great Falls on Wednesday to a drug trafficking crime.
Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said in a news release that Ashley Nicole Rico, 34, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine as charged in a superseding information.
The government alleged in court documents that in May 2021, Russell Country Drug Task Force officers executed a search warrant on a Great Falls residence, recovered meth, and learned that the source of supply was co-defendant Lillian Lapier, who was traveling to Great Falls with meth.
The investigation led to the Helena residence of another co-defendant, Rhonda Jeanette Lapier, where she and Lillian Lapier were suspected of trafficking meth together. Officers ultimately stopped a vehicle being driven by Lillian Lapier and found about 3.6 pounds of meth in the trunk.
Officers obtained a warrant to search Rhonda Lapier’s residence and located three, one-pound bags of meth and $6,132 in a bedroom. Officers stopped another suspect vehicle, driven by Rico, who was arrested on a state warrant.
Rico admitted to distributing meth in Great Falls and that she and others had traveled to Las Vegas, picked up meth there, and had contributed $1,000 to the deal. The six pounds of meth seized is the equivalent of 21,744 doses.
Rhonda Lapier pleaded guilty to charges and is pending sentencing, while Lillian Lapier has pleaded not guilty to charges and is pending trial.
Rico faces a mandatory minimum of five years to 40 years in prison, a $5 million fine, and at least four years of supervised release.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Morris presided and set sentencing for February 23, 2022. Rico remains in custody.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Plaut is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Russell Country Drug Task Force, the Missouri River Drug Task Force, FBI, Great Falls Police Department, Cascade County Sheriff’s Office and Lewis & Clark County Sheriff’s Office.