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Justice News

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

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Albuquerque Woman Pleads Guilty to Prescription Drug Trafficking and Theft Charges Arising Out of Armed Robbery of Retail Pharmacy in January 2015

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

ALBUQUERQUE – Josephine Duran, 23, of Albuquerque, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning in federal court to prescription drug trafficking and theft of medical products charges arising out of the armed robbery of an Albuquerque-area retail pharmacy in Jan. 2015.  Under the terms of her plea agreement, Duran will be sentenced to a prison term within the range of 48 to 100 months.

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.

Duran 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 Duran, her co-defendant Blake Gallardo, 22, 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, Duran and Gallardo had not been arrested and were considered fugitives.  Thereafter, Duran was arrested on May 22, 2015, and Gallardo was arrested on June 11, 2015.

Duran and Gallardo were charged by indictment  in 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 committing robbery involving controlled substance; (4) violating the Safe Doses Act by committing 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 Duran entered a guilty plea to Count 5 of the indictment charging her with possession of Oxycodone with intent to distribute, and to a felony information charging her with theft of medical products.  In her plea agreement, Duran who knew of the robbery in advance, admitted to knowingly taking Gallardo’s loaded firearm and the Oxycodone Gallardo stole from the Walgreens Pharmacy on Jan. 30, 2015, while Gallardo attempted to flee from law enforcement.  Duran admitted that she intended to distribute the stolen Oxycodone.  Duran remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.

On Sept. 4, 2015, Gallardo entered a guilty plea to Counts 1, 2, 3 and 5 of the indictment.  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.  Under the terms of his plea agreement, which encompasses both robberies, Gallardo will be sentenced to a prison term within the range of 15 to 20 years.  Gallardo remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.

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 Duran were arrested on state charges shortly after the robbery.

During 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.

With respect to the four defendants who are charged in three other pharmacy robbery cases, two have entered not guilty pleas and are detained pending trial.  Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.  The other two defendants 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.  Hurtado’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 1, 2015.

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.

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.

Updated September 24, 2015