Montana News

Apr 20, 2011 7:34 PM by Drew Trafton (Billings)

"Significant" amount of heroin in Montana drug bust

The Drug Enforcement Agency District Office in Denver says the heroin seized during a search of a car last week in Billings may very well be the largest bust of the drug in Montana's history.

Acting Special Agent for the Denver Office Kevin Merrill told Montana's News Station that not only is the 3 kilograms (about 6.7 pounds) large for Montana - it's large for anywhere in the United States.

"Well, I don't have any definitive details if it is the largest (in Montana) - but I would be shocked if it isn't," said Merrill. "And if it isn't, it's certainly of significant proportions. Anytime you're seeing 6.7lbs of heroin - that is a significant amount of heroin, whether you're in a major city like Los Angeles or New York, that's a significant amount of heroin."

The DEA puts the estimated street value of the heroin between $600,000 and $700,000.

Merrill says Montana is a gateway to a few distribution cities for the drugs, such as Seattle - where the drugs seized Thursday were heading - and some of that heroin could have found its way back into Montana if it was allowed to be distributed.

The two men who were taken into custody after being pulled over by the Highway Patrolman are currently being held at the Yellowstone Detention Center.

Charges were ordered to be processed yesterday after a hearing for 35-year-old Javier Gonzalez-Martinez and 20-year-old Julio Cesar Zurita-Villanueva.

(Earlier) Two men who are illegally in the United States are facing charges in federal court in Billings for possessing heroin with the intent to distribute.

The possible maximum penalty for possessing heroin with the intent to distribute is life in prison and a $4,000,000 fine.

Javier Gonzales-Martinez, 35, and Julio Cesar Zurita-Villanueva, 20, are both illegally in the United States from Mexico.

According to the official complaint, filed in United States District Court, on Thursday April 14th around 9:45 a.m., Sgt. James Hunter of the Montana Highway Patrol pulled a green passenger car on Interstate 90, near milepost 445 for speeding in a construction zone.

The green vehicle had South Carolina plates, and had two men inside; Sgt. Hunter reported that Javier Gonzales-Martinez was driving and Julio Cesar Zurita-Villanueva was the passenger.

According to the complaint, both men consented to a search of the vehicle.

During the search, approximately 3 kilograms of heroin - about 7 pounds - was located hidden in a natural void in the engine compartment of the vehicle.

The estimated street value of the heroin is estimated between $600,000 and $700,000.

At the point of the discovery, both men were taken into custody.

In later interviews with the two men, which were conducted through an interpreter, Javier Gonzales-Martinez confirmed he knew of the packages of heroin and that he had intended to deliver them to Seattle from New York.

The bust is being considered by some as the biggest Montana has ever seen.

The minimum sentence for the two men if they are convicted of the charge is 10 years in prison and 5 years supervised release.