U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
District of Montana
District of Montana
For Immediate Release
October 2, 2012
Michael W. Cotter, United States Attorney
Contact: Jessica T. Fehr
(406) 247- 4637
Tracer Kaughn Chovanak Sentenced in U.S. District Court
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Great Falls, on October 1, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon, TRACER KAUGHN CHOVANAK, a 27-year-old resident of Great Falls, appeared for sentencing. CHOVANAK was sentenced to a term of:
- Prison: 84 months
- Special Assessment: $200
- Supervised Release: 4 years
CHOVANAK was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to distribution of methamphetamine and receipt of unregistered firearms.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paulette L. Stewart, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
CHOVANAK and Christopher Steven Ritter sold methamphetamine to undercover officers on March 2, March 9, and March 15, 2012. All transactions occurred in Great Falls. In mid-February, a discussion about machineguns started between Ritter and the undercover officers.
On March 9, 2012, CHOVANAK told the undercover officers that he was also involved in the distribution of cocaine, marijuana and "shrooms." CHOVANAK said that he wanted to purchase a handgun from the undercover officers. CHOVANAK also said that he wanted to
trade the undercover officers one-ounce of methamphetamine for the four, fully-automatic AK-47 assault rifles.
On March 12th, one of the undercover officers met with CHOVANAK and Ritter in Great Falls. During this meeting, CHOVANAK and Ritter discussed the purchase of four, fully-automatic AK-47 assault rifles and two handguns by CHOVANAK and Ritter. CHOVANAK stated that he would provide the undercover officer with two ounces of methamphetamine and one ounce of cocaine in exchange for the firearms and some other items. The three agreed to meet on Thursday (March 15, 2012) to complete this exchange.
On March 15th, CHOVANAK and Ritter met two undercover officers in a parking lot in Great Falls. CHOVANAK produced two ounces of methamphetamine and one ounce of cocaine and showed the drugs to the undercover officers. The undercover officers, along with CHOVANAK and Ritter then drove to a different location in Great Falls.
Upon arrival at that location, the undercover officers showed CHOVANAK and Ritter four AK-47 rifles and two handguns that had been provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for the enforcement action. After viewing the firearms,
CHOVANAK and Ritter gave the two ounces of methamphetamine and one ounce of cocaine to the undercover officers and took the firearms from the undercover officers. CHOVANAK and Ritter were then taken into custody.
An analysis by a DEA chemist confirmed that all of the purported methamphetamine purchased from CHOVANAK did, in fact, contain methamphetamine. CHOVANAK is responsible for roughly three ounces of methamphetamine.
All four of the AK-47 rifles are machineguns and not registered to CHOVANAK or Ritter in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.
Ritter pled guilty to federal charges and has been sentenced.
Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that CHOVANAK will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, CHOVANAK does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for
"good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation, the ATF, the U.S. Air Force - Officer of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Great Falls Police Department, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Drug Enforcement Administration Laboratory.