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A Kennewick, Washington, man caught bringing 20 pounds of methamphetamine into Montana has been sentenced to more than 21 years in federal prison.

On Wednesday in Helena, U.S. District Court Judge Sam Haddon sentenced Hector Ricardo Gonzalez, 30, one of four men charged in the drug trafficking case, to 260 months in prison, with five years of supervision after his release.

Prosecutors accused Gonzalez and his codefendants of bringing large amounts of meth into the Deer Lodge area on a monthly basis over the course of 2016. Under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Gonzalez pleaded guilty to a single felony charge in June.

One of the codefendants in the case, Jeff Allen Trask, already was sentenced to a 54-month prison sentence for his role in the drug distribution conspiracy.

Two other men, Chase Ryan Storlie and Christian Jesus Ruiz, are set to be sentenced in January.

Gonzalez and Ruiz were arrested in Mineral County in January with 20 pounds of methamphetamine after being pulled over by sheriff's deputies. Prosecutors say the meth was going to be taken to the Deer Lodge area, and that Gonzalez admitted he planned to sell it to another person for $140,000.

According to prosecutors, charges against Gonzalez and the other men were filed following an investigation by the Montana Department of Justice, local law enforcement in Lewis and Clark, Mineral and Powell counties, the Missouri River Drug Task Force, the FBI and other federal agencies.

In a statement about Gonzalez’s sentencing, U.S. Attorney for Montana Kurt Alme said the case was an “important step” in the effort to stop organized drug distribution networks in Montana.

“The case is particularly important because the defendants possessed firearms in connection with drug trafficking, a prescription for violent crime of the sort the United States Department of Justice is committed to ridding from our communities,” he said.

Alme said the case fell under the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program aimed at reducing violent crime that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week he would be bolstering.

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Law and Justice Reporter

Crime reporter for the Missoulian.