Carrizozo Woman Pleads Guilty to Federal Methamphetamine Trafficking Charge
Defendant is One of 34 Individuals Charged as Part of Investigation into Methamphetamine Trafficking on the Mescalero Apache Reservation
ALBUQUERQUE – Patricia Kay Portillo, 54, of Carrizozo, N.M., pleaded guilty today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to a methamphetamine trafficking charge.
Portillo was one of 34 individuals charged in December 2015 with federal and tribal drug offenses as the result of an 18-month multi-agency investigation led by the DEA and BIA into methamphetamine trafficking on the Mescalero Apache Reservation. Eighteen defendants, including five members of the Mescalero Apache Tribe and 13 non-Natives were charged in six federal indictments and a federal criminal complaint. Sixteen other members of the Mescalero Apache Tribe were charged in tribal criminal complaints approved by the Mescalero Apache Tribal Court.
The investigation leading to the federal and tribal charges was initiated in May 2014, in response to an increase in violent crime on the Mescalero Apache Reservation perpetrated by methamphetamine users. The investigation initially targeted a drug trafficking organization that was allegedly distributing methamphetamine within the Reservation, and later expanded to include two other drug trafficking organizations in southeastern New Mexico that allegedly served as sources of supply for the methamphetamine distributed within the Reservation. In Aug. 2014, the investigation was designated as part of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, which combines the resources and unique expertise of federal agencies, along with their local counterparts, in a coordinated effort to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations. The investigation is one of the first OCDETF investigations to utilize electronic surveillance (wiretaps) in Indian Country. More than ten kilograms of methamphetamine were seized during the course of the investigation.
Portillo was arrested in Dec. 2015, on an indictment charging her with conspiracy and distributing methamphetamine in Otero County, N.M., on Aug. 23, 2015, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute on Oct. 6, 2015, and the use of a communication facility in the commission of a drug trafficking crime on Sept. 4, 2015. During today’s proceedings, Portillo entered a guilty plea to possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and admitted that on Oct. 6, 2015, she had 41 grams of pure methamphetamine concealed on her person which she planned to distribute to others.
At sentencing, Portillo faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison followed by not less than three years of supervised release. Portillo remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.
Portillo is the 11th of the 18 federal defendants to enter a guilty plea. The remaining seven federal defendants have entered not guilty pleas to the charges against them. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
The federal and tribal cases were investigated by the Las Cruces office of the DEA, District IV of the BIA’s Office of Justice Services (Mescalero Agency), BIA’s Division of Drug Enforcement, Mescalero Tribal Police Department, Hatch Police Department, FBI and Lea County Drug Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorney Terri J. Abernathy of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office is prosecuting the federal cases, and Mescalero Tribal Prosecutor Alta Braham is prosecuting the tribal cases.