Posted: Nov 27, 2012 2:50 PM by KBZK Media Center
Updated: Nov 27, 2012 3:25 PM
A California woman pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to distribute 100 or more kilograms of marijuana after she was stopped near Bozeman in June with a rental van containing duffel bags of the drug.
On June 16, 2012, a Montana Highway Patrol trooper stopped Xiao Meng Ma, 23, of Anaheim, for speeding outside of Bozeman. Ma told the trooper she was accompanying her friend, who had rented the van, to New York and that the duffel bags belonged to the friend who was a passenger in the van, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The trooper smelled marijuana and eventually searched the six duffel bags in the back of the van. Each bag contained several vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana, totaling about 115 kilograms, according to the release.
Both women were arrested. The passenger said during an interview that she rented the van because Ma was too young and that Ma took the van for some time. She also said that Ma was going to New York for business and she went with her to visit friends. The passenger said the marijuana in the van did not belong to Ma or herself.
Authorities also learned that Ma had also been an authorized driver for another rental van of the same make and model a week earlier that was also rented in Everett, Washington. The van traveled the approximate distance from Everett, Washington to New York City and back.
Sentencing has been set for March 15, 2013. Ma faces possible penalties of a mandatory minimum of 5 years and could be sentenced to 40 years, a $5 million fine and 4 years supervised release.
Ma is currently detained.