70 Pounds of Pot Seized in Great Falls

By Beacon Staff

GREAT FALLS – Authorities in Great Falls have seized 70 pounds of high-grade marijuana worth about $250,000 on the street as part of an investigation into a drug trafficking organization believed to have ties to Mexico.

Great Falls Police Detective Chris Hickman, who also is commander of the Central Montana Drug Task Force, says 28-year-old Jeremiah Utley was arrested Thursday for criminal possession of a dangerous drug with intent to distribute and possession of paraphernalia. Utley was released on $50,000 bail and is expected to make his first court appearance Monday.

About 60 pounds of pot were found during a search of a mobile home on Central Avenue. Earlier in the investigation, authorities recovered 10 pounds of marijuana, bringing the total seizure to about 70 pounds.

Hickman said he suspects the drug was brought to Great Falls by an organization with links to Mexico and Arizona. Investigators think the marijuana came from Mexico because of its high quality and the way it was packaged in large, plastic-wrapped bales.

Hickman said the home was a “stash house” that was used before the marijuana was sold in the region.

Authorities say they are searching for another man they suspect is involved — 34-year-old Santiago Alvarez, also known as Sergio. He was last known to be in the Shelby area and could be driving an older model black Mitsubishi sports car.

Besides the marijuana, authorities seized a bulletproof vest, a toy pistol that looked like a real gun and a police scanner. A 1997 Lexus and late-1990s Volvo that authorities believe were used to transport the drugs, as well as $1,000 in cash, also were taken into evidence.