Columbia man sentenced to 10 years in prison for fentanyl conspiracy, illegal firearm

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A Columbia, Mo., man was sentenced in federal court for his role in a conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and for illegally possessing a firearm.

Ryan Edwad Knudsen, 31, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes to 10 years in federal prison without parole.

On June 20, 2023, Knudsen pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. Knudsen admitted that he obtained fentanyl from a source in St. Louis, Mo., and sold it to customers in Columbia. Knudsen told investigators he typically got between 350-400 capsules for about $1,400 and that each capsule contained about .1 gram of fentanyl.

Law enforcement officers were tracking Knudsen in August 2021 when he traveled to St. Louis, then on his return left a bag in a light pole at a Kingdom City, Mo., car wash. The bag, which was retrieved by officers, contained 22 fentanyl capsules. Officers later stopped the vehicle in which Knudsen was a passenger. Knudsen had a bag in his front pocket that contained hundreds of similar capsules. He also had a loaded Glock 9mm handgun and ammunition in his backpack. Officers seized a total of 384 capsules that contained approximately 34 grams of fentanyl.

According to government filings, Boone County ranks in the top ten among all Missouri counties for fatal overdose deaths, and fentanyl and other non-heroin opioids cause a significant majority of those deaths. Due to the potential for lethality and the inherently inconsistent quality of unregulated illegal fentanyl, the risk of overdose is present each time an individual uses street fentanyl – and each of the hundreds of capsules that Knudsen distributed had the potential to take a life.

This case was prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren E. Kummerer. It was investigated by the Columbia, Mo., Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration.