News and Press Releases

Armed Career Criminal from Albuquerque Pleads Guilty to
Firearms Charges Arising out of Armed Robbery in Santa Fe

Defendant Prosecuted Under “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence
Initiative Plea Agreement Requires 22 Year Prison Sentence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 6, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE – Elias Atencio, 37, of Albuquerque, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning to federal firearms charges under a plea agreement that requires the imposition of a 22 year prison sentence.  The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, 1st Judicial District Attorney Angela R. “Spence” Pacheco, and Acting Special Agent in Charge Mark Murray of the Phoenix Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez said that Atencio was being prosecuted as part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution.  Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.

“Firearms in the hands of convicted felons are a serious threat to public safety,” said 1st Judicial District Attorney Angela R. “Spence” Pacheco.  “The District Attorneys’ partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office is integral to reducing violence throughout New Mexico by removing armed felons from our communities.”

Acting Special Agent in Charge Mark Murray stated, “The reduction of firearms violence is a priority for ATF.  Anytime we can take a prohibited possessor and crime guns off the streets, our communities are safer places.”

Atencio was charged in March 2013, in a three-count indictment with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition; committing commercial robbery in violation of the Hobbs Act; and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.  According to the indictment, Atencio committed the three offenses on Feb. 23, 2012, in Santa Fe County, N.M.  At the time, Atencio was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because he previously had been convicted of numerous felony offenses, including armed robbery, forgery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and burglary.

During today’s proceedings, Atencio entered guilty pleas to the two firearms offenses charged in Counts 1 and 3 of the indictment.  In his plea agreement, Atencio admitted that on Feb. 23, 2012, he unlawfully possessed a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol.  Atencio admitted brandishing the firearm when he robbed the Walgreens store located at 1096 St. Francis Drive in Santa Fe, N.M.
 
Atencio was arrested in this case in April 2013, after he was transferred to federal custody from state custody.  Atencio remains detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Santa Fe Police Department with assistance from the 1st Judicial District Attorney’s Office.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lynn W.Y. Wang and Linda Mott are prosecuting the case.

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