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Justice News

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Las Cruces Man Sentenced to 130 Months for Participating in Las Cruces-Based Methamphetamine Trafficking Ring

ALBUQUERQUE – Ernest Joe Marquez, 46, of Las Cruces, N.M., was sentenced in Las Cruces federal court this morning to 130 months in federal prison followed by five of supervised release for his methamphetamine trafficking conviction.  The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the DEA’s El Paso Field Division, and Special Agent in Charge Thomas Atteberry of the Phoenix Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Marquez was one of eleven defendants arrested in May 2012 and charged with participating in a conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute from Jan. 2012 through May 2012.  According to a superseding indictment filed in Oct. 2012, 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.

Nine of the eleven defendants resolved the charges against them by entering guilty pleas to various drug trafficking charges.  Marquez and Melchor Arroyos, 53, of El Paso, Texas, 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 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.  On July 31, 2013, a federal jury returned guilty verdicts against Arroyos and Marquez after a three-day trial.

The evidence at trial established that in March 2012, the DEA received 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.

On Aug. 12, 2014, Arroyos was sentenced to ten years of federal prison followed by five years of supervised release.

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 Sarah M. Davenport, Marisa Lizarraga and Aaron O. Jordan.

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