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Forty Individuals Facing Drug Trafficking and Firearms Charges as the Result of a Multi-Agency Investigation in Southeastern New Mexico

JAN 24  (LAS CRUCES, N.M.) –Thirty-nine individuals residing in Eddy, Chaves and Lincoln Counties, N.M., and one from west Texas are facing drug trafficking and firearms charges as the result of a multi-agency investigation targeting drug traffickers in southeastern New Mexico.  The investigation culminated this morning when 27 of the defendants were arrested during an early morning law enforcement operation led by the DEA and the HIDTA Region VI Pecos Valley Drug Task Force.  Another 13 of the defendants were arrested during the course of the investigation. 

The results of the investigation were announced by Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit of the DEA’s El Paso Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough, 5th Judicial District Attorney Janetta B. Hicks, Eddy County Sheriff Scott M. London, Carlsbad Police Chief Kent Waller, and Commander James McCormick of the HIDTA Region VI Pecos Valley Drug Task Force.

The charges against the 40 defendants are the result of a year-long investigation that initially targeted a methamphetamine trafficking organization allegedly led by Israel Mireles-Rivera that distributed quantities of methamphetamine throughout southeastern New Mexico and then expanded to include other drug trafficking activity in the area.  The investigation was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, a nationwide Department of Justice program that combines the resources and unique expertise of federal agencies, along with their local counterparts, in a coordinated effort to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations.

“Methamphetamine destroys the lives of its abusers and has far-reaching negative effects in the areas where it takes hold,” said Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit of DEA’s El Paso Division.  “By targeting local distribution networks in southeastern New Mexico, DEA and our state and local law enforcement partners are working to reduce overall crime and improve the quality of life for area residents.   The numerous arrests and seizures in this investigation are the result of our close cooperation and part of our ongoing efforts to ensure that drug traffickers are held responsible for the harm they cause.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough said, “This investigation was a coordinated effort to crackdown on drug trafficking in southeastern New Mexico.  It is part of our statewide fight against illegal drugs and the cycle of violence that goes hand in hand with drug trafficking.  Those who choose to engage in drug trafficking should be on notice that federal, state, and local law enforcement are committed to working together to put you out of business and into a prison cell.”

Fifth Judicial District Attorney Janetta B. Hicks added, “This investigation has significantly impacted the distribution network for methamphetamine and other controlled and dangerous drugs in Southeastern New Mexico.  The cooperation between and commitment of the federal, state and local agencies has been extraordinary.  The collaboration between the United States Attorney’s Office and the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has been extremely close, focusing upon the jurisdiction, whether state or federal, where those charged can best be tried.
These cooperative efforts will continue beyond this investigation.  The goal is to work toward the eradication of any viable network of distribution of methamphetamine and other drugs within Eddy County and the entire 5th Judicial District.  Methamphetamine destroys lives and leads to serious violent offenses. We will continue to work together toward the final goal.  I have nothing but the highest praise for all of the agencies and individuals participating in today’s operation.  These men and women have gone above and beyond the call of duty in order to ensure Eddy County is a safe place to live, work and raise families.  My deepest appreciation goes out to them.”

During the course of the investigation and today’s law enforcement operation, officers seized more than five pounds of methamphetamine, approximately $53,400 and 24 firearms, including evidence seized during the arrests of Mireles-Rivera and Rodrigo Ivan Cazares in Oct. 2013.

Mireles-Rivera, 32, a Mexican national illegally in the United States, was arrested in Carlsbad, N.M., on Oct. 17, 2013, based on a criminal complaint alleging methamphetamine trafficking and firearms charges.  At the time of his arrest, Mireles-Rivera allegedly was in possession of two firearms, and officers seized approximately 230 grams of methamphetamine, more than $8,000 and five additional firearms when they executed a search warrant at his residence. 

Rodrigo Ivan Cazares, 32, a resident alien from Mexico, was arrested in Artesia on Oct. 15, 2013, based on a criminal complaint after he allegedly attempted to sell 2.8 kilograms of methamphetamine to an officer who was acting in an undercover capacity.

“This operation is the culmination of an extraordinary cooperative effort involving federal, state and local law enforcement entities,” said Eddy County Sheriff Scott M. London.  “I am proud that the Eddy County Sheriff's Office was able to play a major role in this operation and I applaud all the men and women from every other agency involved.  We are and will continue to be committed to the safety and security of Eddy County.”

Carlsbad Police Chief Kent Waller said, “This investigation not only addresses illegal drug activity in Carlsbad, New Mexico but how drug organizations affect our way of life throughout the United States.  This multi-jurisdictional operation demonstrates how our law enforcement agencies work hand-in-hand to protect our families against illegal drugs.  The efforts of our officers and agents today will affect our quality of life in Carlsbad, New Mexico for some time.  Thankfully, they all went home safe tonight, and will be back on the streets tomorrow working to keep us safe.”
These cases are the result of an investigation by the DEA OCDETF Strike Force in Las Cruces and the HIDTA Region VI Pecos Valley Drug Task Force.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Renee L. Camacho and Alexander Shapiro of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office are prosecuting the federal cases, and Chief Deputy District Attorney Davis R. Ruark and his Assistant District Attorneys are prosecuting the state cases.  The following agencies participated in today’s law enforcement operation:  the El Paso Division of the DEA, FBI, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Marshals Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, BIA’s Office of Justice Services, New Mexico State Police, Artesia Police Department, Carlsbad Police Department, Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force, Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, Eddy County Sheriff’s Office, Eddy County Detention Center, Lea County Drug Task Force, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Loving Police Department and Roswell Police Department.

The HIDTA Region VI Task Force is comprised of officers and investigators from the Artesia Police Department, Carlsbad Police Department, Eddy County Sheriff’s Office, FBI, HSI, the Probation and Parole Division of the New Mexico Corrections Department and the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.  The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program was created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.  HIDTA is a program of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) which provides assistance to federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States and seeks to reduce drug trafficking and production by facilitating coordinated law enforcement activities and information sharing.

Defendants Charged in Federal Cases

Juan Antonio Alvarez-Ramirez, 35, a resident alien from Mexico residing in Artesia, N.M., was indicted on marijuana trafficking and firearms charges.  If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on the marijuana charges and a mandatory minimum of five years in prison on one of the firearms charges.  Alvarez-Ramirez was arrested on Jan. 23, 2014.

Rodrigo Ivan Cazares, 32, a resident alien from Mexico residing in Artesia, N.M., was indicted on methamphetamine trafficking charges.  If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum of ten years to a maximum of life in prison.  Cazares was arrested on Oct. 17, 2013 on a criminal complaint and is detained pending trial.

Mickah Chavez, 19, of Artesia, N.M., was indicted on methamphetamine trafficking charges.  If convicted, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.  Chavez was arrested on Jan. 23, 2014.

Gabriel Gonzales, 25, of Roswell, N.M., was indicted on methamphetamine trafficking and firearms charges.  If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the methamphetamine charge and a mandatory minimum of five years in prison on one of the firearms charges.   Gonzales is in state custody on unrelated charges and will be transferred to federal custody.

Ediberto Guzman, 60 of Carlsbad, N.M., was indicted on a methamphetamine trafficking charge.  If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum of ten years to life in prison.  Guzman was arrested today.

Ronnie Joe Lopez, 29, of Odessa, Tex., is charged with marijuana trafficking and firearms charges.  If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on the marijuana charges and a mandatory minimum of five years in prison on one of the firearms charges.  Lopez was arrested today.

Israel Mireles-Rivera, 32, a Mexican national illegally in the United States and residing in Hagerman, N.M., was indicted on methamphetamine trafficking and firearms charges.  If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum of ten years to life in prison on the methamphetamine trafficking charges and a maximum of ten years in prison on the firearms charge.  Mireles-Rivera was arrested on Oct. 17, 2013 on a criminal complaint and is detained pending trial.

Michael Ortiz, 44, of Carlsbad, N.M., was indicted on a methamphetamine trafficking charge.  If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum of ten years to a maximum of life in prison.  Rodriguez was arrested on Jan. 23, 2014.

Sandra Rodriguez, 36, of Roswell, N.M., was indicted on a methamphetamine trafficking charge.  If convicted, she faces a mandatory minimum of ten years to a maximum of life in prison.  Rodriguez was arrested today.

Felipe Salamanca, 42, of Artesia, N.M., is charged with unlawful possession of firearms in a criminal complaint.  If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison.  Salamanca was arrested today.

Dominic Sedillo, 22, of Roswell, N.M., was indicted on methamphetamine charges.  If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum of five years to a maximum of 40 years in prison.  Sedillo was arrested today.

Defendants Charged in State Cases

The following defendants, who have been arrested, are charged in criminal complaints filed in the 5th Judicial District Court for the State of New Mexico:

Patrick Acevedo, 20, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Albert Armijo, 21, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Karen Bucy, 54, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Odilon Campana-Campos, 46, of Ruidoso, N.M.
Cliff Davis, 27, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Dusty Davis, 25, of Artesia, N.M.
Marlene Davis, 45, of Loving, N.M.
Brian Devine, 19, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Marcos Franco, 45, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Joselyn Garcia, 28, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Jose Grado, 31, of Artesia, N.M.
Debra K. Harris, 48, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Kyle Henry, 20, of Artesia, N.M.
Lorinda Hernandez, 49, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Christina Martinez, 26, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Reynaldo Martinez, 26, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Dillon McLaughlin, 30, of Artesia, N.M.
Adan R. Molinar, 36, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Chris Montes, 35, of Artesia, N.M.
Jared Moore, 32, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Jeremy A. Morgan, 24, of Carlsbad, N.M.
George Munoz, 18, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Gonzalo Rodriguez, 20, of Artesia, N.M.
Jesus Sanchez, 26, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Rhonda Snowden, 49, of Artesia, N.M.
Anna Sola, 42, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Josephine Tatum, 37, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Joe Tiller, 51, of Carlsbad, N.M.
Dendall Whiteman, 25, of Artesia, N.M.

Charges in indictments and criminal complaints are only accusations.  All criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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


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