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Press Release

El Paso Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Heroin Trafficking Charge in New Mexico

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico
Defendant Prosecuted as Part of HOPE Initiative which Seeks to Reduce the Number of Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE – Johnathon Jacob Rios, 48, of El Paso, Texas, pled guilty today in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to a federal heroin trafficking charge.

Rios was arrested in June 2016, and was charged in a criminal complaint with a heroin trafficking offense after the DEA seized approximately 788.10 grams of heroin from him during an interdiction investigation at the Greyhound Bus Station in Albuquerque.  The heroin was contained in a bundle that was concealed under Rios’ clothes.

Rios was subsequently indicted on July 12, 2016, and charged with possession of heroin with intent to distribute on June 17, 2016, in Bernalillo County, N.M.

During today’s proceedings, Rios pled guilty to a felony information charging him with possession of heroin with intent to distribute.  In entering the guilty plea, Rios admitted transporting 788.1 grams of heroin from Phoenix, Ariz., to Albuquerque on a Greyhound bus by concealing the heroin under his clothes.

At sentencing, Rios faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.  He remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.

This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the DEA.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Presiliano Torrez 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

Updated December 1, 2016

Drug Trafficking