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Press Release

Hobbs Man Sentenced to 151 Months in Federal Prison for Trafficking Drugs in Lea and Bernalillo Counties

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

ALBUQUERQUE – Joe Padilla, 34, of Hobbs, N.M., was sentenced this morning in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to 151 months in federal prison followed by four years of supervised release for his conviction on narcotics trafficking charges. 

Padilla was one of eight defendants charged as the result of an investigation primarily targeting a drug trafficking organization operating in Lea County, N.M., that allegedly was led by co-defendant Leroy Castillo, 34, of Hobbs, N.M.  The investigation, which was led by the FBI and Lea County Drug Task Force (LCDTF) with assistance from the DEA and New Mexico State Police, was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, 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.

Padilla was arrested in Feb. 2015, on an indictment charging him and co-defendants Castillo, Richard Armijo-Romero, 24, of Moriarity, N.M., Sergio Garza, 35, also of Hobbs, Ruben Estrada, 54, of Las Vegas, N.M., and Charlie Gutierrez, 35, of Albuquerque, N.M., with trafficking narcotics in Lea and Bernalillo Counties, N.M., between late April 2014 and early May 2014.  Count 1 of the seven-count indictment charged all six defendants with participating in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy in Lea County in late April and early May 2014.  Count 2 charged the six men with participating in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine in Bernalillo County, N.M., on May 1, 2014.  Counts 3 and 4 charged Castillo with possession of cocaine and heroin with intent to distribute on May 1, 2014 in Lea County, and Counts 5 and 6 charged Garza with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute on May 1, 2014.  Count 7 charged Garza with using and carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime.

Padilla was also charged in a separate seven-count indictment filed in June 2014, along with co-defendants Castillo, Mario Flores, 30, of Artesia, N.M., Anthony Pisana, 30, of Roswell, N.M., and Rolando Cantu, 40, of Hobbs.  Count 1 of the indictment charged the four men with participation in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy from Feb. 2014 through May 2014, in Lea County.  Counts 2 and 3 charged certain defendants with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in Eddy and Lea Counties in March 2014, and Counts 4 through 7 charged certain of the defendants with using telephones to facilitate drug trafficking crimes in

Feb., March and April 2016. 

Padilla pled guilty on April 7, 2015, to participating in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy and a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy and to using a telephone to facilitate a drug trafficking crime.  Padilla admitted that on April 29, 2014, he agreed with his co-conspirators to deliver money for the purchase of four kilograms of cocaine to an individual in Albuquerque.  Padilla also admitted that on March 1, 2014, he communicated with a co-defendant regarding the purchase and distribution of three ounces of methamphetamine.

With the exception of Castillo, all co-defendants have entered guilty pleas.  Castillo, who has yet to be arrested, is considered a fugitive.  Individuals with information regarding the whereabouts of Castillo are asked to call the FBI at 505-622-6001.  Charges in criminal complaints and indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

These cases were investigated by the Las Cruces, Roswell and Albuquerque offices of the FBI and the LCDTF, with assistance from the Las Cruces office of the DEA, the New Mexico State Police and the Phoenix Police Department.  The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terri L. Abernathy and Shaheen P. Torgoley.

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 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 April 12, 2016

Drug Trafficking