Billings man admits supplying meth to dealers

A Billings man who supplied dealers with methamphetamine admitted federal drug trafficking and firearms charges this week.

James Ward Price, 29, who also lived in Las Vegas, pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court to three counts, including conspiracy to distribute meth, possession with intent to distribute meth and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lori Suek said Price conspired with Hope Rathbun and others beginning in about May 2014 to distribute meth. Price had been under investigation by a Billings drug task force for a number of years as a meth suppliers to dealers in the area, she said.

Rathbun, who is facing trial on drug charges, told law enforcement that she gave Price 6 ounces of meth in July 2014 and that she was his partner in the distribution business, Suek said.

During a traffic stop of Price in March 2014, law enforcement seized about 20 grams of meth, Suek said. Price also had a .22-caliber pistol in the car, she added.

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Officers seized another 18 grams of meth from Price during another traffic stop in April 2014.

While executing a search warrant of a residence Price shared with Rathbun, officers seized more than 2 ounces of meth, which Rathbun admitted was theirs, Suek said. Officers also seized $7,000 in cash and three firearms.

In addition, investigators made three controlled buys of meth from Price in August 2014, Suek said.

Price faces a minimum mandatory five years to 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine on the conspiracy count.

U.S. District Judge Susan Watters set sentencing for Jan. 28. Price remains in custody. A plea agreement calls for six other counts to be dismissed.