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Press Release

Federal Jury Convicts Syndicato De Nuevo Mexico Associate of Murdering Federal Witness, Drug Trafficking and Firearms Offenses

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE – Alexander M.M. Uballez, United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, Raul Bujanda, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office, and Towanda R. Thorne-James, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s El Paso Division, announced today that a federal jury returned eight guilty verdicts against Robert “Fat Head” Padilla after half a day of deliberation. The jury convicted Padilla on one count each of violent crimes in aid of racketeering (murder), retaliating against a witness, killing while engaged in drug trafficking, using, carrying and brandishing a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime, discharging said firearms and causing death, witness tampering, conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute buprenorphine, and possession of contraband in prison. Judge James O. Browning presided.

A federal grand jury issued a Third Superseding Indictment accusing Padilla and his co-conspirator Gary Coca of eight felony offenses on April 19, 2023. According to evidence presented at trial and other publicly available court records, from about Sept. 17, 2018, to Sept. 10, 2019, Padilla engaged in trafficking cocaine, cocaine base, heroin and fentanyl. On July 22, 2019, Padilla killed L.L., a former federal witness in Las Vegas, New Mexico, in retaliation for the victim providing information to law enforcement. Then, on Nov. 25, 2020, Padilla allegedly used physical force against P.G. in an attempt to influence, delay and prevent P.G. from communicating to law enforcement information relating to drug trafficking and the murder of L.L. Finally, on Sept. 6, 2022, Padilla possessed with the intent to distribute more than 329 strips of suboxone while incarcerated at the Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe.

“Witnesses are the eyes and ears of the justice system. They are the embodiment of the fact that justice belongs to all of us, and we all play a role in keeping our communities safe.,” said U.S. Attorney Alexander Uballez. “But some think that they can use violence to silence justice. Attacking a witness is more than an assault on a person, it is an assault on the values that hold our society together. But no one person is bigger than us together. Local, state, and federal law enforcement will find and convict those who threaten citizens who stood up for our community.”

“Mr. Padilla was under the mistaken impression he and his crew could run their criminal enterprise and flaunt their illegal activities in the face of the law without fear of consequence.,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Raul Bujanda. “Today’s conviction is the 12th gang-related homicide charged under the federal RICO or VICAR statutes and sends a strong and clear message to others – illegal drug trafficking, witness intimidation and violence will not be tolerated anywhere in New Mexico. The FBI’s partnerships in this case were vital to a successful investigation, and the willingness of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to aggressively prosecute this group was important to putting others involved in similar criminal activities on notice that there is zero tolerance for their unlawful actions.”

“This case is yet another example of how drug trafficking and violent crime go hand in hand,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Towanda R. Thorne-James. “The men and women of the DEA will stop at nothing to relentlessly pursue these criminals. We will continue to work day and night with laser focus to bring them to justice.”

Padilla will remain in custody pending sentencing, which has not been scheduled. At sentencing, Padilla faces a mandatory term of life in prison.

The Las Cruces Resident Agency of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office investigated this case with assistance from the DEA’s Albuquerque District Office, New Mexico State Police, New Mexico Corrections Department, Las Vegas Police Department and Department of Public Safety’s State Laboratory.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys from the Las Cruces Branch Office are prosecuting this case as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program, a Department of Justice program that 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.

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Updated December 13, 2023

Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 23-284