Crime

Montana Meth Trafficker Who Fatally Shot Flathead County Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges

Prosecutors detailed connection between Leon Paul Kavis, a notorious white supremacist prison gang and a Flathead Valley drug ring after he was arrested in Missoula last year

By Andy Viano

A “large quantity meth dealer” with ties to a white supremacist prison gang, and who also shot and killed a man in Flathead County last year, has pleaded guilty to federal drug charges after reaching an agreement with prosecutors.

Leon Paul Kavis Jr., 36, was apprehended by the FBI in Missoula on Nov. 18 and has been in custody ever since. Kavis was initially charged with conspiracy to distribute 500 or more grams of methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of meth, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. In exchange for a guilty plea, prosecutors have dropped the weapons charge. Kavis still faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and fines of up to $10 million. He will be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Missoula on July 8.

According to court documents, law enforcement had been investigating Kavis as far back as November 2019 and developed a number of confidential informants who helped outline a significant inter-state trafficking operation. Kavis was arrested alongside another man, Dylan Roy Mace, and the two allegedly ran a shop together in Missoula where they would process shipments of methamphetamine supplied, in part by associates of the Aryan Brotherhood, and distribute it in western Montana. Law enforcement intercepted at least one package containing around five pounds of meth — the equivalent of 18,120 doses — on its way to the Missoula shop, and another informant told investigators he brought a 10-pound shipment of meth from California to Missoula.

The Aryan Brotherhood, a notorious white supremacist gang founded in California’s San Quentin State Prison in 1964, was dismantled along with an associated street gang by law enforcement in a multi-state raid around the same time Kavis and Mace were arrested.

 Last fall, while Kavis was under investigation by the FBI, he was briefly detained by the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office after he fatally shot T.J. Kuchinski at a home on Trumble Creek Road, between Columbia Falls and Kalispell. Kavis claimed self defense in the shooting and was released from custody four days later without being charged. The federal indictment raises doubts about Kavis’ claim of self defense and ties together Kavis, Kuchinski and Scott Daniels, another Flathead Valley trafficker arrested on federal charges, as part of a local drug ring. One informant told the FBI that Kavis had been “hunting” for Kuchinski in the days leading up to the shooting.

Daniels pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine earlier this year and is scheduled to be sentenced in May. In an offer of proof submitted along with his plea agreement, prosecutors wrote that Daniels received a 12-pound shipment of meth from Kavis in August 2020.

Mace, Kavis’ co-conspirator in Missoula, has also signed a deal with prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy charge last month and will be sentenced in June.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.