Albuquerque Man Pleads Guilty to Theft Charge Arising Out of Robbery of Retail Pharmacy in August 2014
Defendant Prosecuted Under HOPE Initiative which Seeks to Reduce Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Roy Christopher, 28, of Albuquerque, N.M., pleaded guilty today in federal court to a theft of medical products charge arising out of the robbery of an Albuquerque-area retail pharmacy in Aug. 2014.
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, and Chief Pete N. Kassetas of the New Mexico State Police.
Christopher 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 Christopher and five 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.
Christopher was indicted on April 28, 2015, and charged with (1) violating the Hobbs Act by interfering with interstate commerce by robbery and violence; (2) violating the Safe Doses Act by theft of medical products; and (3) possession of Oxycodone with intent to distribute. The charges against Christopher arise out of the robbery of a CVS Pharmacy on Aug. 3, 2014.
During today’s proceedings, Christopher pled guilty to Count 2 of the indictment charging him with violating the Safe Doses Act by robbery involving controlled substances. In entering the guilty plea, Christopher admitted that on Aug. 3, 2014, he entered the CVS pharmacy and handed the attending pharmacy employee a note demanding Oxycodone and that the pharmacy employee complied with his demand. Christopher was apprehended shortly after the robbery. Christopher admitted that he stole more than 200 Oxycodone pills of various dosages during the robbery.
At sentencing, Christopher faces statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. He remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.
With respect to the other five defendants charged in these pharmacy robbery cases, four have entered guilty pleas and remain detained pending sentencing hearings:
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.
On Sept. 17, 2015, Valentin Garcia, 23, pled guilty to felony charges arising out of the Jan. 30, 2015, armed robbery of the CVS Pharmacy located at 4201 Montano in Albuquerque.Under the terms of his plea agreement, Garcia will be sentenced to ten years in prison.
On Sept. 4, 2015, Blake Gallardo, 22, pled guilty to felony charges arising out of the June 6, 2015, robbery of a Walgreens Pharmacy located at 1201 Unser Blvd. NW in Albuquerque.Under the terms of his plea agreement, Gallardo will be sentenced to a prison term within the range of 15 to 20 years.
On Sept. 24, 2015, Josephine Duran, 23, pled guilty to felony charges arising out of the June 6, 2015, robbery of a Walgreens Pharmacy located at 1201 Unser Blvd. NW in Albuquerque.Under the terms of her plea agreement, Duran will be sentenced to a prison term within the range of 48 to 100 months.
Joseph Montano, 23, has entered a not guilty plea to an indictment arising out of the armed robbery of a Smith’s Pharmacy on Jan. 6, 2015.He remains in custody pending trial which is currently scheduled for Nov. 30, 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. Because New Mexico’s violent crime rates, on a per capita basis, are amongst the highest in the nation, New Mexico’s law enforcement community is collaborating to target repeat offenders from counties with the highest violent crime rates, including Bernalillo County, under this initiative.
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.