GREAT FALLS — Santana Cruz Ledeau of Wolf Point, charged for a convenience store robbery in Billings and armed carjackings in Billings and Cascade County, was arraigned in federal court in Great Falls on Tuesday, March 7, 2023.
U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said in a news release that Ledeau pleaded not guilty to an indictment filed on March 2 charging him with robbery affecting commerce, two counts of carjacking, attempted carjacking, and two counts of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
The indictment alleges that on June 11, 2022, Ledeau robbed On the Run, a gas station convenience store in Billings, and threatened an employee, identified as John Doe #1. The indictment further alleges that on Sept. 30, 2022 near Billings, Ledeau brandished a firearm while carjacking a vehicle from a victim identified as Jane Doe.
In addition, Ledeau is accused of using a firearm while carjacking a vehicle near Cascade and attempting to carjack a vehicle near Ulm on October 17, 2022.
Ledeau was arrested leading law enforcement officers on a high-speed chase in Cascade County.
Court documents state that officers responded to a reported disturbance involving a firearm at Ski's Western Motel on 10th Avenue South in Great Falls. The suspect - later identified as Ledeau - left the hotel in a white Chevrolet pickup truck. Officers began receiving reports of "road rage" incidents and a hit-and-run involving the truck. Police found the truck in city limits, but the driver sped away; the GFPD stopped the chase due to the risk to the public at the time.
A short time later, an attempted robbery was reported south of Great Falls along I-15 near Ulm. The alleged victim told officers that he had been approached by a man a white Chevy pickup truck. Court documents state the suspect then tried to steal the victim's vehicle, pointed a gun at the victim, and then shot out the rear window of victim's vehicle.
Ledeau drove away and ran out of gas in the town of Cascade, where he approached a person and asked for gas. The person did not have any gas, but offered Ledeau a ride to get gas. Once inside the victim's vehicle, Ledeau reportedly brandished a gun and the victim got out of the vehicle, leaving Ledeaue as the operator of the vehicle.
Court documents state that Sheriff's deputies arrived, and Ledeau then accelerated the stolen vehicle and tried to hit one of the deputies. He then drove on to the northbound lane of I-15 and began speeding away heading south.
Ledeau got off the highway at Wolf Creek in Lewis & Clark County, and continued speeding away on Highway 434 with law enforcement officers chasing him.
During the chase, his vehicle collided with the vehicle of a Cascade County Sheriff's deputy, and Ledeau reportedly pointed a gun at the deputy.
The chase finally ended in the town of Simms, where the stolen vehicle collided with a vehicle that was backing out of a driveway and then crashed into a ditch.
Great Falls Police Chief Jeff Newton said that many schools in Cascade County implemented shelter-in-place procedures as the chase progressed only as a precaution due to the "erratic" behavior of Ladeau; there was no direct threat to schools or students.
The news release notes that an indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
If convicted of the most serious crime, Ledeau faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release on the robbery charge; and a mandatory minimum seven years to life in prison, consecutive to any other sentence, a $250,000 fine, and three years of release on the firearm charge.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John Johnston presided; Ledeau, 26 years old, remains in custody pending further proceedings.
The investigation was conducted by the Great Falls Police Department; Cascade County Sheriff’s Office; Cascade County Attorney’s Office; U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office, Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office; Billings Police Department; Musselshell County Sheriff’s Office; and Montana Highway Patrol.
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