Albuquerque Man Pleads Guilty to Narcotics Trafficking and Firearms Charges Arising Out of Armed Robberies of Two Retail Pharmacies in January and June 2015
Defendant Prosecuted Under Federal “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative and HOPE Initiative which Seeks to Reduce Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Blake Gallardo, 22, of Albuquerque, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning in federal court to narcotics trafficking and firearms charges arising out of the armed robberies of two Albuquerque-area retail pharmacies in Jan. 2015. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Gallardo will be sentenced to a prison term within the range of 15 to 20 years.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Kari E. Brandenburg, Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the DEA’s El Paso Division, Chief Gorden Eden, Jr., of the Albuquerque Police Department, Chief Pete N. Kassetas of the New Mexico State Police.
Gallardo was one of six defendants charged in four indictments that were announced by federal and local officials on April 29, 2015. The indictments alleged that the six defendants robbed retail pharmacies in Albuquerque to illegally obtain Oxycodone and other highly addictive opioid painkillers. The four indictments charged Gallardo, his co-defendant Josephine Duran, 23, and four other Albuquerque residents with crimes arising out of the armed robberies of retail pharmacies, including violations of the Controlled Substance Registrant Protection Act and the Safe Doses Act, laws passed to address the theft and diversion of prescription drugs.
At the time the indictments were announced, Gallardo and Duran had not been arrested and were considered fugitives. Thereafter, Duran was arrested on May 22, 2015, and Gallardo was arrested on June 11, 2015.
Gallardo and Duran were charged in Indictment 15-CR-1504 with (1) violating the Hobbs Act by interfering with interstate commerce by robbery and violence; (2) brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence; (3) violating the Controlled Substance Registrant Act by robbery involving controlled substance; (4) violating the Safe Doses Act by theft of medical products; and (5) possession of Oxycodone with intent to distribute. These charges arose out of the armed robbery of a Walgreens Pharmacy located at 6565 Paradise Blvd. NW in Albuquerque on Jan. 30, 2015.
Today Gallardo entered a guilty plea to Counts 1, 2, 3 and 5 of the indictment, charges arising out of the Jan. 30, 2015 robbery of the Walgreens Pharmacy on Paradise Blvd. He also pleaded guilty to a felony information charging him with robbery involving controlled substance, a charge arising out of the June 6, 2015 robbery of a Walgreens Pharmacy located at 1201 Unser Blvd. NW in Albuquerque.
In his plea agreement, Gallardo admitted robbing both Walgreens Pharmacies at gunpoint. With respect to the Jan. 30, 2015 robbery, Gallardo entered the pharmacy, jumped over the pharmacy counter while brandishing a firearm, and ordered the pharmacist to open a locker in which controlled substances were stored. Gallardo pointed his firearm at the pharmacist, took her keys, opened the locker, and filled a bag with oxycodone. Gallardo and his co-defendant were arrested on state charges shortly after the robbery.
With respect to the June 6, 2015 robbery, the plea agreement states that Gallardo was armed with a firearm when he entered the pharmacy and jumped over on the pharmacy counter. He grabbed two pharmacy employees and directed them to the pharmacy’s controlled substance locker. Gallardo took several bottles of oxycodone from the locker and ran out of the pharmacy.
Gallardo has been in federal custody since his arrest and remains detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has not yet been scheduled. His co-defendant, Josephine Duran, has entered a not guilty plea to the indictment. She remains in federal custody pending trial.
With respect to the four defendants who are charged in three other pharmacy robbery cases, three have entered not guilty pleas and are detained pending trial. The fourth has entered a guilty plea.
On July 1, 2015, Victor Hurtado, 20, pled guilty to felony charges arising out of the Jan.6, 2015 armed robbery of the Smith’s Pharmacy located at 4016 Louisiana Blvd. NE in Albuquerque. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Hurtado will be sentenced to a prison term within the range of ten to 18 years. He remains in federal custody pending his sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for Oct. 1, 2015.
Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
These cases were investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI, the Tactical Diversion Squad of the DEA in Albuquerque, and the Albuquerque Police Department, with assistance from the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Bernalillo County. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joel R. Meyers and Shaheen P. Torgoley.
DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squads combine DEA resources with those of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in an innovative effort to investigate, disrupt and dismantle those suspected of violating the Controlled Substances Act or other appropriate federal, state or local statutes pertaining to the diversion of licit pharmaceutical controlled substances or listed chemicals.
These cases are being prosecuted pursuant to 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.
The cases also are being prosecuted pursuant to the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative. The HOPE Initiative is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center that is partnering with the Bernalillo County Opioid Accountability Initiative with the overriding goal of reducing the number of opioid-related deaths in the District of New Mexico. The HOPE Initiative comprised of five components: (1) prevention and education; (2) treatment; (3) law enforcement; (4) reentry; and (5) strategic planning. The law enforcement component of the HOPE Initiative is led by the Organized Crime Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DEA in conjunction with their federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partners. Targeting members of major heroin and opioid trafficking organizations for investigation and prosecution is a priority of the HOPE Initiative.
The Controlled Substance Registrant Protection Act was enacted in 1984, to combat the theft of prescription drugs from individuals and businesses registered with the DEA. It created penalties for entering a pharmacy’s premises for the purpose of stealing controlled substances, and includes enhanced punishment for using a dangerous weapon. The Safe Doses Act was enacted in Oct. 2012, to fight medical theft and protect patients from unknowingly using stolen and mishandled drugs. It provides for enhanced sentences for those who rob pharmacies of controlled substances; individuals who steal medical products; and “fences” who knowingly obtain stolen medical products for resale in the supply chain.