Las Cruces Man Sentenced to Fifteen in Years in Federal Prison for Being an Armed Career Criminal
ALBUQUERQUE – Christopher Albert Apalategui, 45, of Las Cruces, N.M., was sentenced earlier today to 15 years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release for his conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Apalategui received an enhanced sentence because of his status as an armed career criminal.
Apalategui’s sentence was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough, 3rd Judicial District Attorney Mark D’Antonio, Special Agent in Charge Bernard J. Zapor of the Phoenix Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Doña Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison.
Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough said that Apalategui was 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.
Apalategui was arrested in May 2012, on a federal criminal complaint charging him with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. He subsequently was indicted on that same charge in Nov. 2012. According to court filings, Apalategui was unlawfully in possession of a firearm and ammunition on April 8, 2012, in Doña Ana County, N.M. At the time, Apalategui was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because he previously had been convicted of several felony offenses, including burglary in Oregon and burglary, aggravated robbery and illegal possession of firearms in Arizona.
Court filings reflect that, in the early hours of April 8, 2012, Doña Ana County Sheriff’s deputies executed a traffic stop of a vehicle driven pulled Apalategui after learning that there was an outstanding arrest warrant for the registered owner of the vehicle. The deputies determined that Apalategui was not the owner of the vehicle, but arrested Apalategui after learning that there were three outstanding warrants for his arrest. During an inventory search of the vehicle, the deputies found a loaded .45 caliber handgun with a 10-round clip in a gun box and two plastic baggies containing a substance later determined to be heroin.
Apalategui was prosecuted by federal authorities on firearms charges and by state authorities on a heroin possession charge. In Sept. 2012, Apalategui pled guilty to a possession of a controlled substance charge in the 3rd Judicial District Court for the State of New Mexico, and is scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 3, 2013.
"Our partnership with the U. S. Attorney’s Office is integral to reducing the violence in southern New Mexico. It is imperative to remove armed felons from our community," said 3rd Judicial District Attorney Mark D’Antonio.
Special Agent in Charge Bernard J. Zapor of the Phoenix Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said, “Today’s sentencing of Apalategui should serve as a harsh reminder to habitual criminals that gun crime will equal hard time. ATF will not tolerate the illegal possession of firearms by prohibited persons. I want to commend Acting U.S. Attorney Yarbrough and Doña Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison for their partnership and support.”
“Today’s sentencing reinforces the efforts of all law enforcement to work together for a common cause – to remove threats in our communities who clearly cannot function in society and obey the law,” said Doña Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison. “Hopefully this send a message that in New Mexico, career criminals will be put out of business and in Doña Ana County, we will continue to do our part to ensure that.”
This case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Luis A. Martinez of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.