Albuquerque Woman Pleads Guilty to Federal Drug Trafficking and Mail Theft Charges
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – JoAnn Bell, 37, of Albuquerque, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court to drug trafficking and theft of mail charges under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that recommends a five year term of imprisonment.
Bell and co-defendant Nathan Berke, 37, also of Albuquerque, were indicted on May 24, 2017. The 14-count indictment charges Bell and Berke with conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and possession of stolen mail on July 28, 2016, in Bernalillo County, N.M. Bell was charged individually with being a felon in possession of a firearm on July 28, 2016, in Bernalillo County. Berke was charged individually with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute on Aug. 9, 2016, in San Juan County, N.M.; being a felon in possession of a firearm on July 28, 2016, in Bernalillo County; possession of stolen mail on Aug. 9, 2016, in San Juan County; and three counts of bank fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft from July 23, 2016 through July 25, 2016, in New Mexico and Colorado.
During today’s proceedings, Bell pled guilty to conspiracy, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and possession of stolen mail. In entering the guilty plea, Bell admitted that on July 28, 2016, she and another individual were in possession of approximately 100 grams of methamphetamine which they intended to distribute to others. Bell further admitted that on that same day, she was in possession of mail belonging to others that had been stolen from an authorized depository for United States mail.
Berke has entered a plea of not guilty to the charges against him and is pending trial. Charges in criminal complaints and indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
Bell was previously arrested in Sept. 2016, on a criminal complaint charging her with repeatedly stealing mail from U.S. Postal Service mail collection boxes located outside of U.S. Post Offices in Albuquerque by using a “fishing” device she fed into the mailbox to “fish” mail out. Bell was indicted in this case on Oct. 12, 2016, and was charged with stealing and receiving stolen mail on Sept. 18, 2016 in Bernalillo County. On March 30, 2017, Bell pled guilty to the indictment and admitted using a “fishing” device to pull mail out of USPS collection boxes on Sept. 17 and 18, 2016. The sentence imposed in this case will run concurrent to the five-year term of imprisonment Bell has agreed to in her guilty plea entered today.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicholas Jon Ganjei and Sean J. Sullivan.
Updated December 4, 2017