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Six Arrested in El Paso on Federal Drug Trafficking Charges
Arrests stem from two federal grand jury indictments

EL PASO, TX – Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Joseph A. Arabit, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge David Cuthbertson and United States Attorney John E. Murphy announced the arrests of six individuals based on two federal grand jury indictments in connection with two major drug trafficking operations in the El Paso/Juarez corridor.

Those arrested on Wednesday, February 9, 2011, include: Abraham Melendez, 21, of El Paso; Miguel Humberto Lerma, 27, of El Paso; Ruben Salcedo, 35, of San Elizario, Texas; and Jorge Magdaleno, 27, of El Paso. Two defendants were taken into custody on Tuesday, February 8, 2011: Alejandro Melendez, 31, owner of Budget Auto Center in El Paso, and Juan Justino Barragan Purata, 37, of El Paso.

Nunez Operation

A second superseding indictment, returned on February 1, 2011, and unsealed today charges Adrian Nunez, 36­, of El Paso, Barragan Purata, Abraham Melendez, Alejandro Melendez and Carlos Armando Bernal-Quintero, 30, of El Paso, with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired together to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine throughout the El Paso area. Bernal-Quintero remains a fugitive. Nunez is currently out on a $20,000 bond after having been arrested in August 2010.

The Nunez investigation, led by the FBI, was conducted by the El Paso Strike Force. The Strike Force is comprised of FBI and DEA agents. Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Marshals Service, Texas Department of Public Safety, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and the El Paso Police Department also assisted in this investigation.

“The FBI will continue to work in collaboration with our valued law enforcement partners to investigate and seek prosecution of those individuals who choose to participate in drug trafficking enterprises. We will also work in concert with our partners to seize the financial assets of these organizations, which are obtained through illicit means,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Cuthbertson.

Pinedo Operation

A superseding indictment, returned last month and unsealed this afternoon, charges eight individuals, including Lerma, Salcedo, and Magdaleno with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. The indictment alleges that during a seven-month period beginning in May 2010, the defendants, under the direction of Juan Gerardo Pinedo, 33, of Sunland Park, New Mexico, conspired to distribute controlled substances including more than five kilograms of cocaine, more than 50 grams of methamphetamine and more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. Pinedo, as well as co-defendants Yoshio Acosta, 26, of El Paso; Heriberto Guardian Madera, 47, a Mexican national residing in El Paso; Uriel Quinonez, 28 of El Paso; and, Thomas Aldama, 41 of El Paso, were already in custody prior to today’s arrests.

The Pinedo investigation, led by agents with the DEA, was conducted with assistance from the El Paso Police Department, El Paso County Sheriff's Office, Anthony Police Department, Texas Attorney General's Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“These arrests demonstrate the value of multi-agency collaboration, which is essential in our ability to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations. We will continue to work together and pursue those who threaten our communities through the smuggling and distribution of illegal drugs,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Arabit.

Upon conviction, Magdaleno faces between five and 40 years in federal prison; the remaining defendants, ten years to life in federal prison.

An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

The DEA El Paso Division encourages parents, and their children to visit the following interactive websites at www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com, www.JustThinkTwice.comand www.dea.gov.


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