Homero Varela Pleads Guilty to Federal Drug Trafficking and Financial Crimes
ALBUQUERQUE – Homero Varela, 30, of Albuquerque, N.M., entered a guilty plea today to federal drug trafficking and money laundering offenses under a plea agreement that requires a sentence of 120 to 135 months in prison. Varela’s guilty plea was announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales, Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit of the El Paso Field Division of the DEA, Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI, and Acting Special Agent in Charge Gabriel L. Grchan of the Phoenix Division of the IRS Criminal Investigation.
Varela was arrested on Jan. 26, 2012, on a 29-count federal indictment charging him and 14 co-defendants with drug trafficking, money laundering and currency structuring offenses. The indictment charged Varela and his 14 co-defendants with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana in New Mexico between May 2011 and January 2012. It also charged Varela and two co-defendants with participation in a money laundering conspiracy. Varela also was charged with distributing methamphetamine, money laundering, and using a communications device to facilitate drug trafficking offenses. The indictment included provisions seeking forfeiture of property constituting, or derived from proceeds obtained from the defendants’ illegal drug trafficking and financial crimes.
This morning, Varela pled guilty to the following three counts of the indictment: Count 1, charging him with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances; Count 5, charging him with conspiracy to launder money; and Count 6, charging him with money laundering. In entering his guilty plea, Varela admitted using cellular telephones on a regular basis to facilitate the distribution of illegal drugs in and about Albuquerque and his money laundering activities.
In his plea agreement, Varela acknowledged the nature and extent of his drug trafficking activities by admitting that he distributed half a kilogram of methamphetamine to a DEA source in July 2011 and again in Sept. 2011. He also admitted facilitating the distribution of 244 kilograms of marijuana and 26 kilograms of cocaine in early Nov. 2011. The marijuana and cocaine were seized on Nov. 10, 2011, when law enforcement authorities arrested co-defendant Ramon Gonzales, Sr., as he was transporting the drugs. Varela also admitted that he and codefendant Roy Madrid arranged for others transport a large amount of currency to Mexico in July 2011. On July 22, 2011, law enforcement authorities seized $112,270 from individuals who were taking drug proceeds from Varela’s drug trafficking activities to Mexico.
Varela also acknowledged the nature and extent of his money laundering activities in his plea agreement. He also agreed to the imposition of a $150,000 money judgment and to forfeit his right and interest in his Albuquerque residence.
Varela remains in federal custody pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
Thirteen of Varela’s co-defendants have entered not guilty pleas to the indictment and are pending trial; the 14th co-defendant, Manuel Villa-Mayorquin, has not been apprehended and is considered a fugitive. The charges in the indictment against Varela’s 14 co-defendants are only accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The indictment in this case was the result of a multi-agency investigation into a major drug trafficking and money laundering organization operating out of the Albuquerque metropolitan area that 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.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Reeve Swainston and was investigated by DEA, IRS and FBI with support from the New Mexico State Police, the Albuquerque Police Department and, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.