A Montana man was charged with one count of attempted tampering with physical evidence after investigators discovered that the suspect had asked an acquaintance to move cash and a computer allegedly used to access the darkweb, a local news outlet reported. The man was on probation for drug possession and under investigation for other drug crimes at the time of the arrest, court documents revealed.
In July, John Wayne Lorentsen, 26, was sentenced to probation in Gallatin County after a judge had convicted him of a felony drug possession crime. While on probation, parole officers searched Lorentsen’s house in Livingston as part of either a routine search or part of an investigation into ongoing criminal activity at the house. Officers did not arrest Lorentsen immediately after conducting the search but Park County officials later charged the probationer with operating a clandestine laboratory based on the evidence found during the search.
On September 13, after Park County probation officers had searched Lorentsen’s house but before officials had filed charges, a Montana Highway Patrol trooper pulled Lorentsen over in anticipation of an upcoming search warrant. According to court documents, the Montana Highway Patrol trooper had witnessed the alleged drug dealer leaving a storage unit that may or may not have had undisclosed relevance to the case. Information revealed in court documents indicated that the storage unit was part of an ongoing investigation into Lorentsen’s alleged drug trafficking activities throughout Gallatin County.
The Montana Highway Patrol trooper seized Lorentsen’s vehicle and conducted a search of the vehicle. Court documents did not reveal the purpose of the traffic stop, vehicle seizure, or search of the vehicle. However, the Montana Highway Patrol trooper reportedly seized the vehicle in anticipation of a search warrant and presumably had probable cause. Probable cause, in the case of probationers or parolees, is a non-issue. Probationers forfeit the Fourth Amendment rights protecting them from warrantless searches and seizures by being on probation. At one point, this allowed only probation officers to search a probationer’s person, house, or property when the probation officer had “reasonable grounds” to conduct a warrantless search. Numerous Supreme Court rulings, though, have struck down the need for “reasonable grounds” beyond the probation itself. Other law enforcement officers, in most locations, can now conduct warrantless searches for the same reason.
Inside Lorentsen’s vehicle, the Montana Highway Patrol trooper discovered shipping receipts, money orders, more than $10,000 in cash deposit receipts, and $10,000 in withdrawal receipts. They also found a glass pipe that someone had used and a set of keys. Law enforcement officers arrested the suspect and placed him in police custody. A detective with the Missouri River Drug Task Force took the keys to the storage unit and discovered that the keys did not match the lock. Investigators questioned Lorentsen about the lock and he said that he had cut off the lock on the unit, replaced it, and then had given the keys to a friend. He refused to tell the police the name of his friend. Court documents revealed that the storage unit was being rented under the name of Lorentsen’s girlfriend.
Between the initial statement and an interview given to the police only a few days later, something unknown to the public had changed Lorentsen’s decision not to reveal the identity of the friend who had the keys. In the more recent interview with investigators, Lorentsen admitted that the storage unit contained roughly $30,000 in cash, a pistol, and a computer that he had been using to access the darkweb. He told investigators that he had been purchasing cocaine from darkweb marketplaces and selling it throughout Gallatin County.
When asked how he had orchestrated the removal of the lock and installation of the second one, Lorentsen told police that he had called his girlfriend from the county jail and asked her to find somebody who could remove all of the items from the storage unit he had been using before his arrest. He told her the items in the storage unit needed to be removed in order to “prevent any further trouble.”
The contents of the storage unit have not yet been disclosed to the public aside from the seizure of $28,580. The Gallatin County Deputy Attorney said that investigators had searched the unit the day they learned the true story from Lorentsen. Lorentsen is currently in the county jail on a hold from Park County, a probation violation, and the single felony tampering with evidence charge.