Drug traffickers in Montana obtain their supplies from a number of sources. Mexican smugglers bring large quantities of drugs from Mexico via the Southwestern border, with methamphetamines now posing one of the biggest problems. The trafficking and abuse of meth has contributed greatly to an increased level of crime in Montana.
In addition, Montana’s 545-mile border with Canada makes it vulnerable to traffickers from the North. While Montana has 14 border crossings with Canada, the Sweetwater port carries the most traffic and connects directly with I-15. Canadian traffickers frequently transport high potency marijuana into Montana, and from there ship it to other parts of the U.S.
The core of ICE’s (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) mission is enhancing public safety, and this means using all the tools available to disrupt international drug cartels, which often recruit aliens that are in the US illegally. Recently, ICE expanded its Secure Communities Strategy in Montana by introducing it to Missoula and Lewis & Clark counties. The program allows ICE agents to screen the fingerprints of those in custody through both FBI and Department of Homeland Security databases. This allows ICE agents to identify both lawful and unlawful immigrants in local custody who have committed crimes that merit deportation.
Becoming an ICE Agent in Montana
ICE criminal investigators (special agents) go through rigorous selection and training procedures before they start their careers in the field.
Selection to Become a Special Agent – Although the agency has strict requirements to become a special agent, veterans and law enforcement backgrounds can help to streamline the application process. Veterans can be exempted from the requirement that applicants be younger than 37. People with backgrounds investigating crimes or in other types of law enforcement can use their experience to substitute for part of the educational requirement.
All applicants must be US citizens. Those seeking jobs as ICE special agents must have either attended graduate school for a year or have met specific standards when they obtained their bachelor’s degree. This can include having a B average in all of their course or a B+ in the courses for their major—either for all of their coursework or the final two years. Other potential qualifications include having attained a rank in the top third of their class or having been elected to a national honor society.
Special Agent Training – Recruits who have met the agency’s standards are sent to Georgia for 22 weeks of coursework, physical fitness conditioning, and firearms training. This takes place at the Federal Law Enforcement Center in Brunswick.
High Profile ICE Operations in Montana
The investigative work of ICE special agents resulted in a number of sentences being handed down in Montana in 2013. Some of these cases are described below.
Child Exploitation – As part of a cooperative effort between ICE agents and state and local authorities, a sting operation resulted in a guilty plea for a Canadian man who traveled to Great Falls thinking that he would be having sex with a twelve year old girl.
As part of the nationwide initiative Operation Predator, ICE agents were involved in identifying a Missoula man who was distributing child pornography. He received a six-year federal prison sentence. Another case resulted in a five-year federal sentence for a man from Medicine Lake who was receiving child pornography.
Methamphetamine Trafficking – Five of the seven drug trafficking sentences that resulted from ICE operations in Montana this year were for the distribution of methamphetamine. Sentences ranged from nearly four to over thirteen years in federal prison.
Growing Marijuana – A man from Belgrade received a four-year federal sentence for his role in growing approximately 1000 marijuana plants. This conspiracy took place from various points in Montana and generated over $1 million in profits.