Federal Jury Finds Arizona Man Guilty on Marijuana Trafficking Charges in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Yesterday afternoon, a federal jury sitting in Las Cruces, N.M., found John Wayne Hargrove, 57, of Pierce, Ariz., guilty on marijuana trafficking charges after a two-day trial. The guilty verdict was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the DEA’s El Paso Division, and Chief Patrol Agent Jeffrey D. Self of the U.S. Border Patrol El Paso Sector.
Hargrove, Janelle Richter, 57, also of Pearce, Ariz., Edgar Antonio Silvas-Hinojos, 28, a Mexican national illegally in the United States, and three other Mexican nationals, were arrested on Feb. 8, 2016, on a criminal complaint charging them with conspiracy and possession of 135.11 kilograms (297.25 pounds) of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Hargrove, Richter and Silvas-Hinojos were subsequently indicted on June 14, 2016, and charged with participating in a marijuana trafficking conspiracy and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. According to the indictment, the defendants committed the crimes charged on Feb. 8, 2016, in Hidalgo County, N.M.
The evidence at trial established that U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested Hargrove and Richter at 10:45 p.m. on Feb. 8, 2016, as the two were trying to hide inside of Hargrove’s truck which was parked near an abandoned building in the desert off of Highway 80 near the Arizona/New Mexico border. The agents also found Silvas-Hinojos, who was wearing camouflage clothing, trying to hide in the back of the truck. The agents also seized six bundles containing almost 300 pounds of marijuana from the truck.
The evidence established that earlier that night, seven Mexican nationals wearing camouflage clothing, including Silvas-Hinojos, delivered the marijuana to Hargrove. Hargrove loaded the bundles of marijuana into his truck, and tried to conceal the marijuana bundles under a tarp, sleeping bags and construction equipment. He then agreed to drive Silvas-Hinojos to Phoenix, which is why the Border Patrol found him in Hargrove’s truck.
Border Patrol agents testified that, despite the dark of night and remoteness of the area, they were able to find Hargrove’s truck by using an infrared camera. During their surveillance, the agents were able to observe the seven Mexican nationals as they carried the bundles of marijuana to the abandoned property. The agents arrested the six men after they departed from the area without their bundles. Thereafter, the agents went to the abandoned property where they found Hargrove, Richter and Silvas-Hinojos.
The Border Patrol agents transported Hargrove, Richter and the seven Mexican nationals to the Lordsburg Border Patrol Station where Hargrove made a voluntary post-arrest statement. Hargrove told the agents that he was in the area to go fishing. While the agents did find some fishing equipment in Hargrove’s truck, they also found other equipment, including night vision goggles, and two loaded firearms, which Hargrove admitted were his. When asked about the marijuana, Hargrove claimed that he thought it was alfalfa.
The jury deliberated an hour before returning a guilty verdict against Hargrove.
At sentencing, Hargrove faces a statutory mandatory minimum penalty of five years and maximum of 40 years in federal prison. He remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.
Richter pled guilty on Aug. 2, 2016, and remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing where she also faces a statutory mandatory minimum penalty of five years and maximum of 40 years in federal prison. The seven Mexican nationals also have entered guilty pleas. They will be deported after completing any prison sentences imposed on them.
This case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of the DEA and the U.S. Border Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dustin C. Segovia and Luis A. Martinez of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office are prosecuting the case.