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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Jesse Laslovich , United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Meth Trafficking Sends Billings Man to Prison for More Than 12 Years

BILLINGS — A Billings man was sentenced today to 12 years and three months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, after he admitted to selling methamphetamine to an undercover agent and to trying to obtain a machine gun in exchange for meth, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

David Lawrence Bernach, 60, pleaded guilty in October 2022 to possession with intent to distribute meth.

U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen presided.

In court documents, the government alleged that beginning in February 2022, Bernach was the target of a law enforcement investigation where he sold meth to an informant and then to an undercover agent. During those controlled purchases, Bernach was often armed. Bernach told an undercover agent he wanted to purchase “anything automatic’ and coordinated with the agent to obtain an automatic rifle (machine gun) in exchange for three ounces of meth. Law enforcement arrested Bernach when he arrived at a parking lot for the transaction. In a subsequent search of his property, law enforcement found several firearms. Bernach admitted to selling meth and that he had purchased two pounds of meth from his supplier every week for the past six months. He also told law enforcement that the firearms at his residence were for protection.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie R. Patten prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Montana Division of Criminal Investigation.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

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