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Justice News

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Career Offender from Las Cruces Sentenced to 35 Years for Conviction on Conspiracy, Explosives and Firearms Charges

Clifford Salas Prosecuted Under Federal “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative

ALBUQUERQUE – Clifford Raymond Salas, 38, of Las Cruces, N.M., was sentenced today in federal court to 35 years in prison on his conviction on conspiracy, explosives and firearms charges followed by three years of supervised release.  Salas also was ordered to pay $111,018.05 in restitution to the victims of his crimes.  The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI, and Las Cruces Police Chief Jaime Montoya.

U.S. Attorney Martinez said that Salas, whose prior criminal history includes convictions for drug trafficking, attempted assault on an inmate, robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm, was 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 primarily based on their prior convictions 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 Doña Ana County, N.M., under this initiative.

Salas and co-defendants Conrad Vazquez Salazar (Salazar), 44, and Andres Linares-Baca, 33, both of Las Cruces, and Thomas Vazquez Salazar (Vazquez Salazar), 40, of Odessa, Tex., were charged in a series of complaints and indictments, the first of which was filed in Sept. 2012, with violating the federal conspiracy, explosives and narcotics laws.  Salas, Salazar and Vazquez Salazar were charged with conspiracy and explosives charges that arose out of the firebombing of a tattoo parlor in Las Cruces on Aug. 31, 2012. 

Vazquez Salazar entered a guilty plea to the conspiracy and explosives charges in Sept. 2013, and was sentenced in March 2016.  Linares-Baca pled guilty in Sept. 2013, to heroin trafficking charges and was sentenced in Jan. 2014.  Proceedings against Salazar were delayed by competency proceedings, and in Oct. 2014, the court found him incompetent to stand trial and committed him to hospitalization to determine whether he can be restored to competency.  Salazar pled guilty on Aug. 17, 2015, to conspiracy and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and was sentenced in Nov. 2015. 

Salas elected to exercise his right to a jury trial, which resulted in a guilty verdict on March 11, 2015, on a superseding indictment charging him with participating in a conspiracy between July 15, 20112 and Aug. 31, 2012, to commit arson by maliciously damaging and destroying the Irish Ink Tattoo, located at 2245 South Main Street in Las Cruces.  The indictment also charged Salas with maliciously damaging and destroying the Irish Ink Tattoo on Aug. 31, 2012, by throwing at least one Molotov cocktail into the building, using a destructive device in furtherance of an act of violence; and being a felon in possession of an explosive.   

The evidence at trial established that in May 2012, Salazar opened up a tattoo shop in Las Cruces.  Shortly thereafter Salazar experienced legal troubles and his business struggled.  As a result, two of Salazar’s tattoo artists left with the intention of opening their own tattoo shop, the Irish Ink Tattoo.  When Salazar learned of these plans, he threatened to burn down Irish Ink Tattoo.  As promised, after the two tattoo artists opened the Irish Ink Tattoo, Salazar arranged for Salas and Vazquez Salazar to throw Molotov cocktails at the Irish Ink Tattoo and burn it down.  After midnight and after obtaining the Molotov cocktails from Salazar, Vazquez Salazar drove Salas to the Irish Ink Tattoo.  Salas broke a window of the Irish Ink Tattoo with a metal bar and set the building on fire by throwing Molotov cocktails into the building. 

This case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of the FBI and the Las Cruces Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron O. Jordan and Marisa A. Lizarraga prosecuted the case.

Violent Crimes
Updated June 21, 2016