Arizona Woman Pleads Guilty to Federal Drug Trafficking Charge Arising Out of Seizure of Five Pounds of Heroin
Defendants Prosecuted as Part of HOPE Initiative Which Seeks to Reduce the Number of Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Tabitha Marie Ochoa, 29, of Nogales, Ariz., pled guilty today in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to a heroin trafficking charge.
Tabitha Marie Ochoa and co-defendant Maryhelen Princess Ochoa, 32, also of Nogales, Ariz., were arrested in Feb. 2017, after law enforcement officers found nine bundles of heroin weighing 2387 grams (5.26 pounds) in their vehicle during a routine traffic stop. According to the complaint, the traffic stop took place on Jan. 30 and 31, 2017, in Cibola County, N.M.
During today’s proceedings, Tabitha Marie Ochoa pled guilty to an information charging her with possession of heroin with intent to distribute. In entering the guilty plea, Tabitha Marie Ochoa admitted possessing the heroin seized from the vehicle in which she was traveling on Jan. 31, 2017. Tabitha Marie Ochoa admitted that she was being paid to deliver the heroin to another person.
At sentencing, Tabitha Marie Ochoa faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. She remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
Maryhelen Princess Ochoa remains in custody pending presentation of the case against her to a grand jury. Charges in criminal complaints are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of Homeland Security Investigations and the New Mexico State Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elaine Y. Ramirez is prosecuting this case as part of 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.