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Justice News

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hobbs Man Pleads Guilty to Unlawful Possession of Firearm and Ammunition

Plea Agreement Requires Imposition of Fifteen Year Prison Sentence; Case Prosecuted as Part of “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative

ALBUQUERQUE – Ruben Cantu, 43, of Hobbs, N.M., pleaded guilty today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.  Under the terms of his plea agreement, Cantu will be sentenced to 15 years in federal prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.

U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez said that Cantu was being prosecuted as part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution.  Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.  Because New Mexico’s violent crime rates, on a per capita basis, are amongst the highest in the nation, New Mexico’s law enforcement community is collaborating to target repeat offenders from counties with the highest violent crime rates, including Lea County, under this initiative.

Cantu was arrested on July 7, 2014, on an indictment charging him with two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.  The indictment alleged that Cantu committed the crimes on March 5, 2014, in Lea County, N.M.  At the time, Cantu was prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition because he previously had been convicted of a marijuana trafficking crime.

During today’s proceedings, Cantu pled guilty to the indictment and admitted that on March 5, 2014, he was in possession of a firearm and multiple rounds of ammunition.  He further acknowledged that he was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition based on his status as a convicted felon.

In entering the guilty plea, Cantu reserved the right to appeal from an order of the court denying his motion to suppress evidence, including the firearms and ammunition at issue in the case, seized pursuant to a state search warrant.  He remains in federal custody pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

This case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Roswell office of the FBI, the Lea County Drug Task Force and the Hobbs Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Terri J. Abernathy of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office is prosecuting the case.

The Lea County Drug Task Force is comprised of officers from the Lea County Sheriff’s Office, Hobbs Police Department, Lovington Police Department, Eunice Police Department the Tatum Police Department and the Jal Police Department, and is part of the NM 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 December 8, 2015