North Dakota man admits fentanyl trafficking in Great Falls

A North Dakota man admitted to trafficking charges today after law enforcement found hundreds of fentanyl pills and a loaded firearm in a vehicle he was driving in Great Falls, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said in a release.

Kelly Sterling Wait, 45, of Williston, N.D., pleaded guilty in federal court to possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. Wait faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine and at least three years of supervised release, according to a release.

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Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided and the court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Sentencing is set for May 18 and Wait was detained pending further proceedings.

The government alleged in court documents that in October 2022, Russell Country Drug Task Force agents were surveilling a motel room in Great Falls as part of an ongoing drug investigation.

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Two men, including Wait, left the room, entered a vehicle, drove a short distance and park, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Wait was the driver. His male passenger got out of the vehicle and appeared to steal several items from trucks in the lot, according to court documents.

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The investigation led to the Montana Highway Patrol stopping the vehicle when Wait was removed from the driver’s seat and a loaded pistol was removed from his waistband, along with a fanny pack he had, according to court documents.

The vehicle was searched on a state warrant and about 186 fentanyl pills were found in the fanny pack, and six bags, each containing 100 fentanyl pills, were found in the trunk. Another 60 fentanyl pills were found in the passenger seat area, according to court documents.

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Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan R. Plaut is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Russell Country Drug Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Montana Highway Patrol and Great Falls Police Department.