El Paso Woman Pleads Guilty to Participating in Doña Ana County Cocaine Trafficking Ring
DEA-Led OCDETF Operation Targeted Cocaine Trafficking in Southern New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Gabriela Castro, 24, a legal permanent resident from El Paso, Texas, pled guilty today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to participating in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine in Doña Ana County, N.M.
Castro was arrested in Sept. 2016, on an indictment alleging cocaine trafficking charges. The 18-count indictment is the result of a six-month investigation, which was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) program, targeting a drug trafficking organization allegedly led by Joel Ibarra-Torres, 46, a Mexican national, that allegedly distributed cocaine in Doña Ana County.
The indictment alleged that Ibarra-Torres and seven co-conspirators, including several members of Ibarra-Torres’ family, participated in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy that existed from at least March 31, 2016 until Sept. 20, 2016. The indictment also alleged that Ibarra-Torres and two of his co-defendants participated in an international money laundering conspiracy. It also charged certain of the defendants with substantive cocaine trafficking offenses and with using telephones to facilitate their drug trafficking activity. The indictment included forfeiture provisions that seek the forfeiture of at least $31,620, constituting proceeds of the defendants’ alleged criminal activities, to the United States.
During today’s proceedings, Castro pled guilty to Count 1 of the indictment charging her with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. In entering the guilty plea, Castro admitted that on Aug. 26, 2016, she attempted to smuggle approximately 250 grams of cocaine into the United States from Mexico in exchange for payment. At sentencing, Castro faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.
The remaining co-defendants with the exception of Ibarra-Torres who has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive, have entered pleas of not guilty pending trial. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The investigation leading to the indictment was conducted by the Las Cruces office of the DEA, the U.S. Border Patrol and the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terri J. Abernathy and Sarah M. Davenport of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch office.