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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Albuquerque Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Robbing Pharmacy at Gunpoint to Obtain Opioid Painkillers

Defendant Prosecuted Under HOPE Initiative which Seeks to Reduce Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE – Ernesto Gallegos, 31, of Albuquerque, N.M., was sentenced today in federal court for his conviction for robbing a retail pharmacy at gunpoint to obtain prescription opioid painkillers in May 2014.  Gallegos was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.  The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Kari E. Brandenburg, Will R. Glaspy, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s El Paso Division, and Chief Gorden E. Eden of the Albuquerque Police Department.

Gallegos was charged by felony information on March 16, 2016, with violating the Hobbs Act by robbing a business engaged in interstate commerce and robbery involving controlled substances.  The charges against Gallegos arose out of the armed robbery of the Walgreens Pharmacy located at 5001 Montgomery Blvd. in Albuquerque on May 6, 2014.

Gallegos pled guilty on March 16, 2016, to the felony information.  In his plea agreement, Gallegos admitted that late on the night of May 6, 2015, he entered the Walgreens Pharmacy on Montgomery Blvd. NE in Albuquerque, approached the pharmacy counter, gave a pharmacy employee a note demanding Oxycodone, and let the employee know that he was armed.  After the pharmacy employee gave Gallegos bottles containing Oxycodone, Gallegos attempted to flee from police, but drove through a red light and crashed his vehicle into a police vehicle. 

The plea agreement states that officers recovered 515 Oxycodone pills in 30-milligram and 15-milligram dosages and 26 pills of a generic brand of oxycodone in 15-milligram dosages from Gallegos and his vehicle.  They also seized the handgun Gallegos used during the robbery from Gallegos’ vehicle.

This case was investigated by the Tactical Diversion Squad of the DEA in Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department with assistance from the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shaheen P. Torgoley and Joel R. Meyers.

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.

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.

This case was prosecuted pursuant to the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative.  The HOPE Initiative was launched in January 2015 by the UNM Health Sciences Center and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in response to the national opioid epidemic, which has had a disproportionately devastating impact on New Mexico.  Opioid addiction has taken a toll on public safety, public health and the economic viability of our communities.  Working in partnership with the DEA, the Bernalillo County Opioid Accountability Initiative, Healing Addiction in our Community (HAC), the Albuquerque Public Schools and other community stakeholders, HOPE’s principal goals are to protect our communities from the dangers associated with heroin and opioid painkillers and reducing the number of opioid-related deaths in New Mexico. 

The HOPE Initiative is comprised of five components:  (1) prevention and education; (2) treatment; (3) law enforcement; (4) reentry; and (5) strategic planning.  HOPE’s law enforcement component 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.  Learn more about the New Mexico HOPE Initiative at http://www.HopeInitiativeNM.org.

Topic(s): 
Prescription Drugs
Violent Crime
Component(s): 
Updated July 12, 2016