Washington man admits trafficking fentanyl in Great Falls

A Spokane, Wash., man admitted to trafficking charges Jan. 11 after law enforcement found hundreds of fentanyl pills in a vehicle in which he was a passenger in Great Falls, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Yevgeniy Rudnitskiy, 34, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute controlled substances in federal district court last week.

Rudnitskiy faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine and at least three years of supervised 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, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sentencing was set for May 25. Rudnitskiy 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 Rudnitskiy, left the room, entered a vehicle, drove a short distance and parked. Co-defendant Kelly Sterling Wait, of Williston, N.D., was the driver, according to court documents.

Rudnitskiy got out of the vehicle and appeared to steal several items from trucks in the lot, according to court documents. The investigation led to the Montana Highway Patrol stopping the vehicle.

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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.

Rudnitskiy also was removed from the passenger seat and a bundle of cash and a bag were observed where he had been sitting, according to court documents.

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The vehicle was searched on a state warrant.

About 186 fentanyl pills were found in the fanny pack, and six bags, each containing 100 fentanyl pills, were found in the trunk and another 60 fentanyl pills were found in the passenger seat area, according to court documents. Officers also seized $3,734 from where Rudnitskiy had been sitting, according to court documents.

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Wait recently pleaded guilty in the case and is pending sentencing, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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.