Albuquerque Resident Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges Arising Out of January 2015 Pharmacy Robbery
Defendant Prosecuted Pursuant to Federal “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative and The HOPE Initiative which Seeks to Reduce Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Joseph Montano, 23, of Albuquerque, N.M., pleaded guilty today in federal court to felony charges arising out of a pharmacy robbery in Jan. 2015. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Montano will be sentenced within the range of 80 to 120 months in federal prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Kari E. Brandenburg, Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade 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.
Montano and his co-defendant Victor Hurtado, 21, also of Albuquerque, were charged in April 2015 with crimes arising from the Jan. 6, 2015, armed robbery of the Smith’s Pharmacy located at 4016 Louisiana Blvd. NE in Albuquerque. The indictment alleged that the two men (1) violated the Hobbs Act by interfering with interstate commerce by robbery and violence; (2) brandished a firearm during a crime of violence; (3) violated the Controlled Substance Registrant Act by robbery involving controlled substance; (4) violated the Safe Doses Act by theft of medical products; and (5) possessed Oxycodone with intent to distribute.
During today’s change of plea hearing, Montano plead guilty to violating the Hobbs Act by interfering with interstate commerce by robbery and violence, violating the Controlled Substance Registrant Act by robbery involving controlled substances, violating the Safe Doses Act by theft of medical products and possession of Oxycodone with intent to distribute. Montano admitted that on Jan. 6, 2015, he acted as a lookout while his accomplice jumped over the pharmacy counter at the Smith’s Pharmacy located at 4016 Louisiana Blvd. NE in Albuquerque, pointed a firearm at pharmacy employees and bagged bottles of Oxycodone pills. Montano further admitted that he and his accomplice intended to distribute the controlled substances to other individuals and that the replacement value to Smith’s Pharmacy for the stolen pills in approximately $1,831.00.
Montano remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.
On July 1, 2015, co-defendant Hurtado pled guilty to robbing a commercial business engaged in interstate commerce; brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, and possession of Oxycodone with intent to distribute. Hurtado also pled guilty to possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and admitted that he was arrested on state charges on March 5, 2015, after the New Mexico State Police found 54 grams of heroin and 133 grams of methamphetamine in the vehicle Hurtado was driving. Hurtado was sentenced on Dec. 11, 2015, to 141 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. Hurtado was also ordered to pay restitution to the pharmacy.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI, the Tactical Diversion Squad of the DEA in Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Police Department and the New Mexico State Police, with assistance from the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Bernalillo County. The case is 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 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. 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.
This case is 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.