A Missoula man has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for meth distribution, closing the book on a case investigated by the FBI's Regional Violent Crime Task Force.

Judge Dana Christensen on Thursday sentenced Robert Craig Smith, 39, to 10 years in federal prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release. 

Smith was indicted in February on four counts, two meth distribution-related and two firearm-related charges. He pleaded guilty in May, after taking a plea deal with federal prosecutors, to conspiracy to distribute meth and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a trafficking crime. 

Prosecutors said in court documents earlier this year Smith had dealt meth from the spring of 2015 through January. Confidential informants told investigators Smith had bought and sold firearms often to exchange for meth.

Smith's defense attorney wrote in a memo ahead of sentencing that he had endured a troubled life; drinking by age nine and taking his first illegal drugs two years earlier. After building a short rap sheet of assaults in Yellowstone County, he returned to Missoula, attended the culinary arts school at the University of Montana's College of Technology and held jobs as a cook and kitchen manager at local restaurants.

Things went sideways again for Smith after a workplace injury that later led to an opioid addiction. According to his attorney, Smith swapped out the painkillers for meth when he realized the stimulant could get him through an entire work shift without pain. He was soon selling meth to support his habit, although his attorney said he never became a large-quantity dealer. 

The confidential informants, however, told investigators Smith had distributed more than a pound of meth in the Missoula area in the last three years and often gave meth dealers guns for drugs. 

Smith was sentenced to five years for the distribution charge and another five years for the firearm charge to run consecutively. He will be on federal supervision for five years after he is released from prison.

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