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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Federal Jury Finds Two Men Guilty of Participating in Las Cruces-Based Methamphetamine Trafficking Ring

ALBUQUERQUE – Late this afternoon a federal jury in Las Cruces found Ernest Joe Marquez, 44, of Las Cruces, N.M., and Melchor Arroyos, 52, of El Paso, Texas, guilty on methamphetamine trafficking charges after a three-day trial.  The guilty verdicts were announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales, Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s El Paso Division, and Thomas G. Atteberry, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF’s Phoenix Division.

Marquez was one of ten defendants charged in a 16-count indictment filed in May 2012.  Marquez was arrested on May 24, 2013, as was Arroyos, who was separately charged in a criminal complaint.  A superseding indictment was filed in Oct. 2012, charging Marquez, Arroyo and eight co-defendants with participating in a conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute from Jan. 2012 through May 2012.  The superseding indictment alleged that members of the conspiracy transported methamphetamine from El Paso, Texas, and Phoenix, Ariz. to Doña Ana County, N.M., where the methamphetamine was distributed to local drug dealers.

Before the superseding indictment was filed, one defendant entered a guilty plea to a charge in the original indictment.  Thereafter, eight other defendants entered guilty pleas to various counts in the superseding indictment.  Marquez and Arroyos elected to proceed to trial on the following counts of the superseding indictment:  Count 1, charging both men with conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute; Count 13, charging Marquez with using a communication device (a telephone) to facilitate a drug trafficking crime; Count 16, charging Marquez with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute; and Count 17, charging Arroyos with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.

Trial commenced on July 29, 2013, and concluded late this afternoon when the jury returned verdicts of guilty against Marquez and Arroyos on all counts against them.  The evidence at trial established that in March 2012, the DEA received court authorization to conduct a wiretap investigation and listen to communications occurring over Marquez’s telephone.  During the investigation, the investigators learned that Marquez was conspiring with others to bring large quantities of methamphetamine from Texas and Arizona to New Mexico so that the drugs could be divided up, repackaged, and sold on the streets of Las Cruces.  Among other things, the investigation revealed that in April 2012, Marquez sent two women to Arizona to pick up a pound of methamphetamine.  Through intercepted conversations, the investigators learned that, after taking possession of the methamphetamine, Marquez sold the methamphetamine to local drug dealers. 

The investigation also revealed that in May 2012, Marquez made arrangements for the delivery of another pound of methamphetamine.  This time, Arroyos was responsible for delivering the methamphetamine.  After Arroyos’ initial attempt to deliver the methamphetamine  to Marquez was unsuccessful, the two men had a telephone conversation during which they made arrangements for Arroyos to deliver the methamphetamine to Marquez at his home.  Before Arroyos could make the delivery, he was arrested by an officer who executed a traffic stop on Arroyos’ vehicle and found a pound of methamphetamine hidden in the engine area of the vehicle.

The jury deliberated for approximately four hours before returning guilty verdicts against Marquez and Arroyos. 

At sentencing, Marquez and Arroyos each faces a minimum of ten years to a maximum of life imprisonment and a $10 million fine.  Marquez and Arroyos have been in federal custody since their arrests in May 2012, and they remain detained pending their sentencing hearings which have yet to be scheduled.

The case was investigated by the Las Cruces offices of the DEA and ATF, with assistance from the U.S. Border Patrol, Hatch Police Department, Motor Transportation Division of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, New Mexico State Police, Las Cruces/Doña Ana County Metro Narcotics Agency, and Las Cruces Police Department Gang Task Force.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marisa Lizarraga, Aaron O. Jordan and Sarah M. Davenport.

The case was the result of a five-month investigation led by the DEA and ATF, which was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) program.  OCDETF is a nationwide 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.

Updated January 26, 2015