GREAT FALLS – A federal court jury today convicted a North Dakota man of methamphetamine trafficking crimes after investigators seized nearly two pounds of meth that were hidden in a pinata and a jar of peanut butter, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.
After a three-day trial that began on Nov. 4, a jury found Christopher Michael Stebbins, 53, of Williston, N.D., guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute meth and with attempted possession with intent to distribute meth.
Stebbins faces a minimum mandatory 10 years to life in prison, a $10 million fine and at least five years of supervised release on each crime.
Chief U.S. District Judge Bryan M. Morris presided. Chief Judge Morris set sentencing for March 4, 2021 and ordered Stebbins detained.
“Pinatas are meant to be stuffed with candy, not meth,” U.S. Attorney Alme said. “Mr. Stebbins worked with others to bring large amounts of this poison to Montana communities, including the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Organizations that push meth will be broken up, and we will stop their spread. I want to thank Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Starnes, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service and the Merced, Cali., Police Department for their work on this case.”
The prosecution presented evidence at trial that on Nov. 8, 2019, Don Fred Baldwin, of Merced, Cali., mailed almost two pounds of meth to Stebbins to an address of a residence in Brockton, located on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. The meth was hidden in a jar of peanut butter and inside a “cop dog” pinata. Law enforcement officers intercepted the package, obtained a search warrant and found 1.7 pounds of meth inside the pinata and the peanut butter jar.
The quantity of meth seized is the equivalent of about 6,208 doses.
Baldwin was convicted in a companion case of meth distribution and was sentenced in September to six years in prison.
A witness told law enforcement officers that Stebbins received meth from Baldwin and that the shipments were usually one-pound quantities. Baldwin typically shipped the meth to Stebbins’ home in Williston and that the Nov. 8 package was the only shipment to the Brockton residence. The witness said Stebbins would send Baldwin cash for the drugs, which Baldwin would then send to Stebbins, who would re-package the meth to sell to others.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Starnes prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the FBI, U.S. Postal Service and the Merced, CA, Police Department.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a U.S. Department of Justice initiative to reduce violent crime.