Federal Indictment Charges Eight with Participating in Doña Ana County Cocaine Trafficking Ring
DEA-Led OCDETF Operation Targeted Cocaine Trafficking in Southern New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Last week a federal grand jury indicted eight individuals on conspiracy and cocaine trafficking charges based on a DEA-led investigation into a drug trafficking organization that allegedly distributed cocaine in Doña Ana County, N.M. Seven of the eight defendants were arrested today during an early morning law enforcement operation that also included the execution of search warrants at two residences in Las Cruces, N.M., and two residences in Sunland Park, N.M.
The indictment and arrests were announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez and Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of DEA’s El Paso Division.
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. Ibarra-Torres has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.
The indictment alleges 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 alleges that Ibarra-Torres and two of his co-defendants participated in an international money laundering conspiracy. It also charges certain of the defendants with substantive cocaine trafficking offenses and with using telephones to facilitate their drug trafficking activity. The indictment includes forfeiture provisions that seek the forfeiture of at least $31,620, constituting proceeds of the defendants’ alleged criminal activities, to the United States.
Initial appearances, which will be held at the federal courthouse in Las Cruces, for the seven defendants arrested today have yet to be scheduled.
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 U.S. Marshals Service, Homeland Security Investigations, National Guard, Sunland Park Police Department, New Mexico State Police and the Las Cruces Police Department participated in today’s law enforcement operation. 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.
Indictment in United States v. Joel Ibarra-Torres, et al. 16-CR-3796
Summary of the Charges
Count 1 of the Indictment charges the eight defendants with participating in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy in Doña Ana County and elsewhere from at least March 31, 2016 through Sept. 20, 2016. The statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than five years and not more than 40 years.
Count 2 charges three defendants with participating in a money laundering conspiracy in Doña Ana County from at least June 15, 2016 through Sept. 20, 2016. The maximum statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is 20 years.
Count 3, 5 and 8 charge certain defendants with distributing cocaine in Doña Ana County on June 9, 2016, July 14, 2016, and Aug. 25, 2016. The maximum statutory penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for 20 years.
Counts 4, 6, 7 and 9 charge certain defendants with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute in Doña Ana County on July 14, 2016, Aug. 25, 2016 and Aug. 26, 2016. The maximum statutory penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for not less than five years and not more than 40 years.
Counts 10 through 18 charge certain defendants with using a communication facility, a telephone, in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in Doña Ana County on June 29, 2016, July 13, 2016, July 14, 2016, July 15, 2016, July 25, 2016 and July 31, 2016. The maximum statutory penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for four years.
Defendants Charged in Indictment
- Joel Ibarra-Torres, 46, a Mexican national, is charged in Counts 1, 2, 12, 16, and 18. Ibarra-Torres has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.
- Noemi Ibarra, 23, of Las Cruces, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 2, 6, 11, 13, 15, 16, and 18.
- Joel Ibarra, Jr., 21, of Sunland Park, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 2, 6 and 13.
- Juan Velazquez, 26, of Las Cruces, is charged in Counts 1, 3- 5, 7-12, 14, 15 and 17.
- Alejandro Chavez, 27, of Las Cruces, is charged in Counts 1, 9, 10 and 17.
- Rene Cruz-Vargas, 40 a Mexican national, is charged in Counts 1, 4, 7 and 14.
- Denise Duarte, 24, of Sunland Park, is charged in Count 1.
- Gabriela Castro, 24, a legal permanent resident from El Paso, Texas, is charged in Count 1.
Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.