Federal Investigation Targets Violent Crime in Bernalillo County
108 Individuals Charged as a Result of ATF-Led Investigation Pursued In Support of Federal “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative
ALBUQUERQUE – U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez and Special Agent in Charge Thomas G. Atteberry of the Phoenix Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) today announced the results of a four-month, multi-agency investigation targeting violent crime in Bernalillo County, N.M., during a press conference. Joining them in making the announcement were 2nd Judicial District Attorney Kari E. Brandenburg, Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of DEA’s El Paso Division, Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Alex Ramos, New Mexico State Police Chief Pete N. Kassetas, Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden E. Eden, Jr., Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III, New Mexico Corrections Department Secretary Gregg Marcantel, and Rio Rancho Police Chief Michael Geier.
The ATF-led investigation resulted in the filing of 58 federal indictments and one federal criminal complaint charging 104 Bernalillo County residents with federal firearms and narcotics trafficking offenses. The investigation also developed information leading to the indictment of four other individuals on state charges arising out of two murders in Bernalillo County in May and June 2016.
The investigation began in mid-April 2016, when ATF personnel from throughout the country joined forces with federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies in New Mexico to combat the high rate of violent crime in the Albuquerque metropolitan area. The investigators utilized a number of investigative techniques, including undercover operations, historical investigation and targeting of multi-convicted felons in possession of firearms. The investigation, which concluded yesterday, was the ninth multi-agency, multi-month investigation completed throughout the United States under the ATF’s Enhanced Enforcement Initiative (EEI).
The investigation was also undertaken in support 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 collaborate with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution primarily based on their prior criminal convictions with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.
In announcing the results of the investigation, U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez said, “The purpose behind this investigation and its resulting prosecutions is to ensure that we keep control of our streets. The law enforcement community is sending a loud and clear message to the worst of the worst offenders in our community: you cannot commit crime in New Mexico with impunity and without consequence. We are putting you on notice. We are watching, and we will continue to be vigilant.”
“ATF’s Enhanced Enforcement Initiative (EEI) has cut a distinctive path through the violent criminal element in the Albuquerque metropolitan area. Utilizing the federal firearms and narcotics laws, our undercover agents have arrested 98 individuals and taken 127 firearms off the streets, making this EEI the most successful and impactful enforcement operation to date said,” ATF Special Agent in Charge Thomas G. Atteberry. “The federal prosecution of these individuals, some of whom have significant criminal histories, puts the brakes on the turnstile justice often experienced in the state judicial system. Our goal is simple: to put violent, repeat offenders behind bars for as long as possible, and keep them from interacting with the good people of New Mexico.”
“The results of this enforcement initiative exceeded our expectations. It has confirmed, however, what those of us in law enforcement already knew: there is a clear and direct correlation between drugs, guns and violence,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy. “DEA will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to target those individuals and criminal organizations who spread their poison on the streets of Albuquerque, and in doing so we will make our community a safer place for all.”
Deputy U.S. Marshal Alex Ramos added, “By combining the resources of the various agencies, we are able to accomplish many things that one agency by itself would be hard pressed to achieve. When law enforcement and the public join forces, each are doing their part to make our communities, our homes and most importantly, our families safer. This was truly a team effort.”
To date, 94 of the 104 federal defendants and the four state defendants have been arrested. The defendants were arrested during two phases of the investigation. The first began in mid-April 2016 and concluded on July 7, 2016, and the second began on July 8, 2016 and concluded on August 10-11, 2016. As of the issuance of this press release, ten federal defendants have yet to be arrested and are considered fugitives. Information about the defendants and the charges against them is attached to this press release.
During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers took 127 firearms, including a number of assault-type weapons, off the streets of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. They also purchased and seized more than 17 pounds of methamphetamine, more than 2.5 pounds of heroin, 14 ounces of crack cocaine, more than a pound and a half of cocaine, and 100 pills. Four vehicles were also seized during the investigation.
“Once again, we are proud to be part of the cooperative effort by federal and state agencies to effect greater public safety for our citizens,” said 2nd Judicial District Attorney Kari E. Brandenburg. “Our prosecutors are dedicated to doing their best to ensure justice for the families and friends of the victims. I want to personally thank each agency for their hard work and assure them of our continued commitment.”
“The citizens of New Mexico are safer today because of the collaborative effort between law enforcement agencies. When law enforcement agencies combine resources and assets, we are able to prevent violent crimes,” said New Mexico State Police Chief Pete N. Kassetas. “This operation is a great example of how local, county, state and federal agencies are working with State District Attorneys and the U.S. Attorney to prevent violent crimes. It also reinforces that there are consequences to those that choose to commit violent crimes in our state.”
“The Albuquerque Police Department greatly appreciates that ATF selected Albuquerque for this complex operation, which has been extremely successfully because of strong support from the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden E. Eden, Jr. “This operation demonstrates yet again the critical cooperation necessary to fight crime and the criminal element that preys on the innocent. As these cases advance through the criminal justice system, we will all witness the strength of our collaborative commitment to the safety and security of this community.”
New Mexico Corrections Department Secretary Gregg Marcantel noted, “The work represented today is much more than cooperation between agencies – it is true collaboration. It is collaboration because much more is involved than simply working together. These results are about law enforcement, corrections and prosecutors, with like hearts and purpose, walking along-side one another to add value and safety to our communities.”
“In times of minimal staffing and other diminished resources, multi-jurisdictional activities like this one will prove to be an effective approach to combating the serious violent crime epidemic in our communities. The old adage, ‘united we stand, but divided we fall’ still holds true today,” said Rio Rancho Police Chief Michael Geier. “The Rio Rancho Police Department was honored to be part of this innovative and cooperative team effort.”
The following agencies participated in the investigation: ATF, including its Albuquerque office, DEA in Albuquerque, U.S. Marshals Service, New Mexico State Police, Albuquerque Police Department, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the Security Threat Intelligence Unit and the Probation and Parole Division of the New Mexico Corrections Department, and the Rio Rancho Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly A. Brawley, Rumaldo R. Armijo, Norman Cairns, Eva M. Fontanez, Edward Han, Samuel A. Hurtado, Paul Mysliwiec, Paul H. Spiers, James D. Tierney, Presiliano A. Torrez, David M. Walsh, and Jacob A. Wishard are prosecuting the federal cases. The state cases are being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Sherri Trevino and Mark Probasco of the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Charges in indictments and criminal complaints are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
Photographs of the ten fugitives are attached to this press release. Individuals with information on the whereabouts of these fugitives are asked to contact the U.S. Marshals Service at (505) 346-6400.