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Press Release

Federal Jury Finds Mexican National Guilty of Marijuana Trafficking and Firearms Charges in New Mexico

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

ALBUQUERQUE – Earlier today a federal jury sitting in Las Cruces, N.M., found Juan Antonio Alvarez-Ramirez, 36, a resident alien from Mexico residing in Artesia, N.M., guilty on marijuana trafficking and firearms charges after a three-day trial.  The guilty verdict was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Thomas G. Atteberry of the Phoenix Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the DEA’s El Paso Division, Task Force Commander James McCormick of the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force (PVDTF) and Chief Donald Raley of the Artesia Police Department.

Alvarez-Ramirez and his co-defendant, Ronnie Joe Lopez, 31, of Odessa, Texas, were arrested in Jan. 2014, on an indictment charging them with participating in a marijuana trafficking conspiracy, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and carrying and using a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime.  Lopez was also charged with receipt of a firearm by a person under indictment.  All offenses charged in the indictment took place on Sept. 28, 2013, in Eddy County, N.M.

Lopez pled guilty to the indictment on April 4, 2014, and admitted that on Sept. 28, 2013, he and Alvarez-Ramirez were stopped by law enforcement officers in Artesia and found to be in possession of ten pounds of marijuana which Lopez and Alvarez-Ramirez intended to distribute to others.  Lopez further admitted that he was in possession of a gun shortly before being stopped by the officers; at the time Lopez was under indictment in Texas.  Lopez was sentenced on Oct. 29, 2014, to 68 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Alvarez-Ramirez elected to proceed to trial on the three counts in the indictment in which he was charged.  The trial began on Oct. 14, 2015, and concluded this afternoon when the jury returned a verdict finding him guilty on three counts of the indictment.

The evidence at trial established that on Sept. 28, 2013, acting on a tip from the Artesia Police Department, a PVDTF agent executed a traffic stop on Lopez based on information that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest.  At the time of the vehicle stop, Lopez, Alvarez-Ramirez and two other men were in the vehicle. After observing a shotgun in the backseat of the vehicle the agents obtained a search warrant. During the search of the vehicle, agents found a 9 mm pistol and ten pounds of marijuana in addition to the shotgun that was in the backseat.  The agents also found three handguns on the ground outside of the vehicle.  During a post-arrest statement, Alvarez-Ramirez admitted throwing one of the handguns underneath the vehicle when he saw the police and dropped another handgun in the area where he had been laying on the ground pursuant to law enforcement commands for him to get down.

Alvarez-Ramirez has been in federal custody since his arrest and will remain detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.  At sentencing, he faces a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison on the marijuana trafficking charges.  He also faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison on the firearms charge which must be served consecutive to the sentence imposed on the marijuana charges.

This case was investigated by the Las Cruces offices of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the DEA, the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force and the Artesia Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maria Y. Armijo and Randy M. Castellano are prosecuting the case.

The Pecos Valley Drug Task Force is comprised of officers from the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office, Carlsbad Police Department and Artesia Police Department and is part of the HIDTA Region VI Drug Task Force.  The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program was created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.  HIDTA is a program of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) which provides assistance to federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States and seeks to reduce drug trafficking and production by facilitating coordinated law enforcement activities and information sharing.

Updated October 16, 2015