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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

Monday, June 23, 2014

Additional Charges Filed as a Result of Federal Investigation into Drug Trafficking in Lea County

ALBUQUERQUE – In May 2014, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging six individuals with narcotics trafficking offenses as the result of a multi-agency federal investigation primarily targeting drug traffickers in Lea County, N.M.  Three more indictments have been filed as a result of that investigation, announced U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, 5th Judicial District Attorney Janetta B. Hicks, Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division and Commander Byron Wester of the Lea County Drug Task Force (LCDTF).

The three indictments were filed on June 18, 2014.  The first indictment charges the following six individuals with trafficking methamphetamine in Lea County:  Leroy Castillo, 32, Joe Padilla, 33, and Roland Cantu, 38, of Hobbs, N.M., Mario Enrique Flores, 28, of Artesia, N.M., and Anthony Joe Pisana, 28, of Roswell, N.M.  The second indictment charges Ruben Cantu, 41, of Hobbs, with violating the federal firearms laws.  The third indictment charges Antonio Acosta, 30, also of Hobbs with trafficking methamphetamine in Lea County and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Pisana was arrested Friday morning (June 20, 2014) during a law enforcement operation and made his initial appearances in federal court in Roswell today.  During Friday’s law enforcement operation, officers also executed two search warrants at a residence in Roswell where they recovered approximately 2.25 pounds of methamphetamine and more than $9,000.00 in cash.

Roland Cantu, Ruben Cantu and Acosta are in state custody and will be transferred to federal custody to face the charges in the indictments.  Castillo, Padilla and Flores have yet to be arrested and are considered fugitives.  Individuals with information regarding the whereabouts of Castillo, Padilla or Flores are asked to call the FBI at 505-622-6001.

The six-defendant indictment includes a conspiracy count against all six defendants; two counts of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute; and four counts of using communication devices to facilitate drug trafficking crimes.  If convicted on the charges in the indictment, each defendant faces a mandatory minimum of five years to a maximum of 40 years in prison.

Ruben Cantu faces two counts of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition for unlawfully possessing a firearm and ammunition in March 2014.  At the time, Cantu was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because he previously had been convicted of a marijuana trafficking charge.  If convicted, Cantu faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison.

Acosta is charged with two counts of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition in March 2014.  At the time, Acosta was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because he previously had been convicted of forgery, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of methamphetamine.  If convicted, Acosta faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on the narcotics charges and ten years on the firearms charge.

These cases are being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.  The investigation of these cases, which was led by the Las Cruces and Roswell offices of the FBI and LCDTF with assistance from the Las Cruces office of the DEA and New Mexico State Police, 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.

The Lea County Drug Task Force is comprised of officers from the Lea County Sheriff’s Office, Hobbs Police Department, Lovington Police Department, Eunice Police Department the Tatum Police Department and the Jal Police Department, and is part of the HIDTA Region VI Drug Task Force.  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.

Updated January 26, 2015