News and Press Releases

Last of Nine Defendants Charged With Participation in
Anthony, N.M., Drug Trafficking Ring Sentenced

Part Owners of Pecan Farm Used to Facilitate Drug Trafficking Activities Forfeit $135,735.64 – Their Share of Proceeds
from Sale of the Farm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2013

ALBUQUERQUE – In Jan. 2012, the owners and operators of a pecan farm in Anthony, N.M., their two sons and four others were arrested on a 24-count indictment alleging federal drug trafficking and money laundering offenses.  A ninth defendant, who was separately charged, also was arrested.  By Aug. 2012, all nine defendants had pleaded guilty either to drug trafficking or money laundering charges, or both.  Today, the case concluded with the sentencing of Sandra L. Portillo.

The successful conclusion of these cases was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales, Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the El Paso Division of the DEA, Carol K.O. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI, and Dawn Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Office of IRS Criminal Investigation.

The individuals charged in the indictment included Oscar L. Portillo, Sr., 55, and his wife Sandra L. Portillo, 52, who were part owners and operators of “Pettit Farms and Nursery,” a pecan farm and nursery in Anthony (the pecan farm), and their sons, Matthew Portillo, 27, and Oscar Portillo, Jr., 30.  Also charged were Cesar Ramos, 33, Fernando A. Ramos, 41, and Ruben Ortiz-Rivera, 48, of El Paso, Tex., and Natasha N. Coronado, 24, of Vinton, Tex.  April Garcia, 37, a codes enforcement officer employed by the Horizon City (Texas) Police Department, was charged with money laundering in a criminal complaint.

Count 1 of the indictment charged all eight defendants with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and heroin.  Count 2 charged certain defendants with maintaining a place for storing and distributing drugs.  Counts 3, 5, 9 and 21 charged certain defendants with distributing cocaine and aiding and abetting the distribution of cocaine.  Count 11 charged certain defendants with conspiracy to launder money and Counts 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, 22 and 23 charged certain defendants with money laundering.  Count 15 charged certain defendants with distribution of heroin.  Counts 17, 18, 19 and 20 charged certain defendants with using communication devises to further the commission of drug trafficking crimes.  Count 24 charged certain defendants with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

During their respective plea hearings, the defendants admitted conspiring to distribute cocaine and heroin in Dona Ana County, N.M., between Sept. 2011 and Jan. 2012.  Oscar L. Portillo, Sr., and Sandra L. Portillo used the pecan farm as a place to store and sell drugs, and the Portillos and their sons sold drugs to an undercover agent on five separate occasions.  The Portillos laundered the proceeds from some of these drug deals by (i) asking the undercover agent pay for the drugs with money orders which they subsequently cashed and deposited into bank accounts in the name of the pecan farm, and (ii) providing the agent with invoices that falsely asserted that the agent purchased pecan trees.  Cesar Ramos and Fernando Ramos and their subordinate, Ruben Ortiz-Rivera, were the sources of drug supply for the Portillo family.

Oscar L. Portillo, Sr., was charged in Counts 1 through 16, and 21 through 24 of the indictment.  Portillo pleaded guilty to each of these counts in Aug. 2012, and was sentenced to 98 months in prison followed by four years of supervised release on May 8, 2013.

Sandra L. Portillo was charged in Counts 1, 2, 10 through 14, and 18 of the indictment.  Portillo pled guilty to each of these counts in Aug. 2012.  Earlier today, Portillo was sentenced to 15 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. 

Oscar L. Portillo, Sr. and Sandra L. Portillo also were ordered to forfeit $135,735.64, the value of their ownership interest in the pecan farm which was sold after they were arrested.  The court also entered a money judgment in the amount of $17,900.00 against the Portillos and their son Matthew Portillo.

Matthew Portillo was charged in Counts 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 17, 18, 20 and 24 of the indictment.  Portillo pled guilty to each of these counts in Aug. 2012, and was sentenced on May 8, 2013, to five years in prison followed by four years of supervised release.

Oscar Portillo, Jr., was charged in Counts 1, 17, 22 and 23 of the indictment.  In May 2012, Portillo pleaded guilty to Count 23 of the indictment, and on Sept. 26, 2012, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Cesar Ramos was charged in Counts 1, 3, 15, 16, 19, 21, 22 and 23 of the indictment.  In Aug. 2012, Cesar Ramos pleaded guilty to each of these counts, and on March 26, 2013, he was sentenced to ten years in prison.  Ramos is a Mexican national and he will be deported after he completes his prison sentence.

Fernando Ramos was charged in Count 1 of the indictment.  In Aug. 2012, Ramos pleaded guilty to that count, and on Jan. 30, 2013, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Natasha N. Coronado was charged in Counts 1 and 20 of the indictment.  In May 2012, Coronado pled guilty to those two counts, and on Aug. 24, 2012, she was sentenced to time served (212 days) followed by three years of supervised release.

Ruben Ortiz-Rivera was charged in Counts 1 and 19 of the indictment.  In May 2012, Ortiz-Rivera pled guilty to those two counts, and on April 17, 2013, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison.  Ortiz-Rivera is a Mexican national and he will be deported after he completes his prison sentence.

In May 2012, April Garcia pleaded guilty to a felony information charging her with conspiracy to launder money.  On Feb. 12, 2013, Garcia was sentenced to a one-year term of probation.

            The cases were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Renee L. Camacho and Sarah M. Davenport, and were investigated by DEA, IRS Criminal Investigation and FBI, with support from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, the New Mexico State Police, the Las Cruces Police Department, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, and the Las Cruces Metro Narcotics Task Force.  These cases were the result of a multi-agency investigation brought under 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.

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