A Kalispell couple pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges that they were part of a drug-trafficking ring that distributed pound quantities of methamphetamine throughout the Flathead Valley.

Diane Elizabeth Walters, 37, and Derek Anthony Heft, 27, both of Kalispell, appeared Monday in U.S. District Court in Missoula. They pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, and Heft admitted to an additional charge for using a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

Sentencing in both cases is set for Oct. 16.

According to charging documents, federal agents were investigating a meth ring involving at least five people in October 2011. The drug network involved a Washington dealer who was selling methamphetamine to dealers in Flathead County, including Heft and his girlfriend, Walters.

On Oct. 24, agents followed Thomas Bell from western Washington to a store in Kalispell, where he met Heft.

Agents confronted the men and Heft admitted he had 1.5 pounds of meth in the Ford Mustang he was driving, records state. A search turned up more than 700 grams of the drug, as well as firearms, U.S. currency and cellphones. Heft had a loaded 9 mm gun on him at the time of arrest.

Walters later admitted that she accompanied Heft when he would meet with drug suppliers in Las Vegas.

Heft and Walters each face a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, as well as fines of up to $10 million.

Two co-defendants, Bell and Brandon Torgenrud, have pleaded guilty to related charges and are awaiting sentencing in the case.

Reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at (406) 730-1067 or at tscott@missoulian.com.

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