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Heir to candy fortune fined $550K in cocaine case

A businesswoman who is an heir to the Brach's Confections fortune has been sentenced to eight months of house arrest and fined $550,000 for hosting drug parties at her $2 million house.

Dru Cederberg, 52, of Billings was sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Charles C. Lovell in Helena.

Cederberg was the latest person sentenced after being charged with maintaining a drug-involved premises in the high-profile cocaine case in the Billings area.

Others were former Carbon County Attorney Robert Eddleman and his then-fiancée Terri Jabs Kurth, the daughter of the president and CEO of American Furniture Warehouse.

Prosecutors said for about a decade, Cederberg hosted dinner parties that ended with cocaine being set out in the bathroom for guests.

"I'm very sorry for everything I've done," Cederberg, whose net assets total $14 million, said during the sentencing hearing. "I don't deny that I was wrong. I've changed my life."

Lee Newspapers of Montana reported Lovell was inclined to reject a plea agreement that called for two years of probation and a $50,000 fine.

"The plea agreement on its face is exceptionally lenient compared to the sentences imposed on the other defendants," Lovell said, telling Cederberg she was more culpable than Kurth, who was sentenced to eight months in prison for giving cocaine to guests at parties.

Eddleman and Kurth were convicted in 2009 of conspiring to maintain premises for cocaine distribution. They acknowledged using cocaine and making it available to friends at their homes in Billings and Red Lodge.

Kurth also was fined $10,000 and paid an additional $50,000 to avoid forfeiting property under federal seizure laws.

Eddleman was sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Prosecutors say in 2006, he undermined a drug case against an associate to keep his own activities from behind exposed.

Lovell did praise Cederberg's role in testifying for the federal government in cases involving Domingo Baez and others. Baez was sentenced to 15 years in prison for cocaine trafficking.

Lovell sentenced Cederberg to two years of probation, including eight months of house arrest in which she is only allowed to attend medical appointments, court appearances and other activities approved in advance by the court. The judge added $500,000 to the fine and said it would have been more if he weren't limited by federal sentencing guidelines.

"But I think the appropriate penalty here is a financial one, rather than incarceration," Lovell said, giving her 30 days to turn over the $500,000 before the court starts charging interest.

"A prison sentence is not appropriate for you — at least not at this time," Lovell said, citing mental health concerns. However, he noted that he believes Cederberg introduced the use of cocaine to a number of people who otherwise may not have used the drug.

Cederberg's attorney Mark Parker said his client had not used cocaine since 2008 and has cooperated with federal prosecutors for 2½ years.

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