GREAT FALLS – A North Dakota man convicted of methamphetamine trafficking crimes after investigators seized nearly two pounds of meth that were hidden in a pinata and a jar of peanut butter was sentenced today to 12 years and six months in prison followed by five years of supervised release, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said.
A jury found Christopher Michael Stebbins, 53, of Williston, N.D., guilty on Nov. 6, 2020 of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute meth and with attempted possession with intent to distribute meth.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided and continued Stebbins’ detention.
In court documents and during trial, the prosecution presented evidence that on Nov. 8, 2019, Don Fred Baldwin, of Merced, California, mailed almost two pounds of meth to Stebbins to an address of a Brockton residence, 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 sentenced to six years in prison for conviction in a companion case.
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, 2019 package was the only shipment to the Brockton residence. Stebbins 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 Police Department.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a U.S. Department of Justice initiative to reduce violent crime. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, violent crime in Montana increased by 48% from 2013 to 2019. Through PSN, federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement partners in Montana focus on violent crime driven by methamphetamine trafficking, armed robbers, firearms offenses and violent offenders with outstanding warrants.