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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Federal Jury in New Mexico Convicts Arkansas Woman on Methamphetamine And Cocaine Trafficking Charges

ALBUQUERQUE – Earlier this afternoon a federal jury sitting in Albuquerque, N.M., found Shelia Villegas, 47, of Manila, Ark., guilty on methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking charges after a two-day trial.  The guilty verdict was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Acting Special Agent in Charge Tom Hernandez of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in El Paso, Texas, and Chief Gorden Eden of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).

Villegas was arrested on April 29, 2014, on a criminal complaint alleging methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking charges.  She subsequently was indicted in a two-count indictment charging her with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.  The indictment alleged that Villegas committed the two offenses on April 29, 2014, in Bernalillo County, N.M. 

Trial of this case began on Jan. 6, 2015 and concluded this afternoon when the jury returned a guilty verdict on both counts of the indictment.  The evidence at trial established that on April 29, 2014, an APD officer conducted a routine traffic stop of Villegas for failure to maintain a single lane. After issuing a citation to Villegas, the officer asked and received Villegas’ consent to a search of her vehicle.  The officer then deployed a narcotics canine on the vehicle.  After the canine alerted and thus indicated the presence of drugs, the officer and HSI agents searched Villegas’ vehicle and found 19 bundles, 18 of which contained an aggregate of 20 pounds of methamphetamine and one which contained more than 700 grams of cocaine.

The evidence at trial included the APD officer’s recording of his encounter with Villegas.  In addition, an HSI agent testified that Villegas made a post-arrest statement in which she acknowledge that she was transporting drugs from Calif. to Ark. in exchange for $10,000.00 plus $500 in travel expenses.

The jury deliberated approximately two hours before returning its guilty verdict.

Villegas was remanded into federal custody after the jury returned its guilty verdict.  She will remain in custody pending her sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.  At sentencing, Villegas faces a maximum statutory penalty of life imprisonment. 

This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of HSI and APD and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Mysliwiec and Nicholas Jon Ganjei.

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Updated January 26, 2015