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HELENA—A Helena man who admitted sending threatening text messages and participating in an armed robbery of a couple involved in heroin trafficking last year was sentenced today to 11 years and seven months in prison and five years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.

Kielan Brett Franklin, 34, pleaded guilty in January to robbery affecting commerce and possession of a firearm in furtherance of violence.

U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon presided.

The prosecution said in court records that Franklin provided a couple with $1,200 to go to Washington to buy an ounce of heroin. The couple returned with less than an ounce because the price was higher in Washington. When the couple did not immediately give Franklin the heroin, Franklin began sending the couple threatening text messages on March 7, 2019.

Several hours later, on March 8, 2019, Franklin’s girlfriend and co-defendant, Arielle Rose Cowser, knocked on the couple’s door and said she needed to enter because Franklin had broken up with her. The female victim let Cowser enter and a short time later, Cowser let in Franklin and two other co-defendants, Gerald Allen Hiler and Morgan Victor Pitsch.

Hiler brandished a handgun and Pitsch possessed one during the robbery. Both wore masks. The defendants fled when they realized the female victim had called 911. The robbers took a small amount of heroin, the female victim’s wedding ring, her cell phone and a purse.

Hiler and Pitsch pleaded guilty to charges in the case. Hiler was sentenced to 11 years and seven months in prison, while Pitsch was sentenced to six years and six months in prison. Cowser was convicted by a jury of charges for her role in the crime and was sentenced to one year and one day in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tom Bartleson and Tim Racicot prosecuted the case, which was investigated by FBI, Montana Regional Violent Crime Task Force, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Missouri River Drug Task Force.

This case is part of Project Guardian, a Department of Justice initiative launched in the fall of 2019 to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Through Project Guardian, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Montana is working to enhance coordination of its federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement partners in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes. In addition, Project Guardian supports information sharing and taking action when individuals are denied a firearm purchase by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for mental health reasons or because they are a prohibited person.

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