Absarokee man gets 5 years in prison for role in meth trafficking
An Absarokee man who admitted to transporting 178 pounds of methamphetamine to Montana during a 2-year period will spend about five years in federal prison.
Brett Wade Clouse, 36, was sentenced last Wednesday in federal court to a total of 63 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. He was not remanded into custody but rather will be allowed to turn himself into the U.S. Marshals Service once a federal prison is designated, according to court records. His sentence was reduced due to factors that were not clearly listed in court documents.
In July 2016 Clouse pleaded guilty to felony counts of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Under the terms of a plea agreement with prosecutors, the following charges will be dismissed: one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
He was allowed to remain free until sentencing based on medical issues that include migraine headaches, neck pain, an aortic aneurysm in his heart and depression, according to “letter of responsibility” that Clouse wrote to the sentencing judge.
In that letter, Clouse stated he began working as a drug courier for Fishtail resident Merrill Gardner in March 2014 when he was out of work due to long-standing depression and crippling migraine headaches. In addition to being a courier, he worked on Gardner’s home and used methamphetamine on a recreational basis.
Clouse wrote that until he stopped using meth in March 2015, he “did not see much wrong” with being a courier. Now, he wrote, he thinks everyday about the destruction he brought to many lives.
“I am not sorry for being caught, but rather thankful. I believe it saved my life,” Clouse wrote in the letter.
Clouse served short stints as a deputy sheriff in both Teton County and Rosebud County, according to court documents.
According to court documents, from January 2013 until on or about June 18, 2015, Clouse was a key member of a wide-ranging conspiracy to import and distribute methamphetamine in Montana by serving as an interstate courier of large amounts of methamphetamine. The leader of the conspiracy was 62-year-old Gardner, who is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence.
On June 18, 2015, a search warrant was served upon Gardner’s home on Delger Road in Fishtail. During the execution of that warrant, Gardner and Clouse arrived in a vehicle registered to Gardner. Investigators searched the vehicle and recovered 1 1/4 pounds of methamphetamine. Clouse was also carrying a Glock 23 semi-automatic pistol strapped to his ankle.
Clouse then provided information to investigators that he had driven Gardner from his residence to a residence in Nye where Gardner retrieved methamphetamine prior to their return to Fishtail and contact with law enforcement. Investigators conducted a consent search on the Nye residence and located an additional three packages of 1 1/4 pounds of methamphetamine, the seizure totaling approximately six pounds of methamphetamine.
In subsequent interviews with investigators, Clouse admitted his involvement in the conspiracy, explaining that on at least seven separate occasions, he transported bindles of $200,000, illegal proceeds collected from the sale of methamphetamine, to Gardner’s source of supply, according to court documents. In exchange for the drug proceeds, Clouse was provided with 20 to 26 pounds of additional methamphetamine intended for distribution.
Clouse told the Drug Enforcement Administration that from 2013 until June 2015, he brought approximately 178 pounds of methamphetamine into the state of Montana and delivered them to Gardner, according to court documents. All the methamphetamine seized and tested in the course of investigating this conspiracy has contained purity levels of at least 95 percent.