A Florida man admitted a drug trafficking crime after the Montana Highway Patrol seized 78 pounds of nearly pure methamphetamine, which is more than a quarter of a million doses, during a traffic stop near Columbus, Mont., U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.
Nichols James Imhoff, 30, of Cape Coral, Fla., pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute meth. Imhoff faces a minimum mandatory 10 years in prison, a $10 million fine and at least five years of supervised release.
The prosecution said in court documents that on Feb. 11, a Montana Highway Patrol trooper stopped an eastbound Dodge Caravan for speeding on Interstate 90 near Columbus.
Imhoff, the driver, provided a Florida driver’s license, a rental contract for the vehicle from Las Vegas, Nev., and told the trooper he was headed back to work in the oilfields in North Dakota. Imhoff’s explanations and other observations led the trooper to suspect Imhoff was transporting drugs.
The trooper deployed his canine on the vehicle, and the dog alerted to the presence of drugs. Imhoff’s vehicle was impounded in Columbus, and the officer obtained a Montana search warrant.
During a search of the vehicle, officers seized about 78 pounds of meth, which is the equivalent of 282,672 doses. The meth was located under a floor storage compartment in the second seat area and was in white plastic garbage bags. Some of the meth was packaged in vacuum-sealed plastic bags and some was wrapped in gray duct tape. An analysis by a Drug Enforcement Administration lab determined the meth was 98 percent pure.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Patten is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Montana Highway Patrol.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Cavan presided. Imhoff was detained pending further proceedings. Sentencing will be set by U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a U.S. Department of Justice initiative to reduce violent crime. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, violent crime in Montana increased by 36% from 2013 to 2018. Through PSN, federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement partners in Montana focus on violent crime driven by methamphetamine trafficking, armed robbers, firearms offenses and violent offenders with outstanding warrants.