Las Cruces Man Sentenced to Prison for Role in Doña Ana County Cocaine Trafficking Ring
Defendant Charged as the Result of a DEA-Led OCDETF Operation that Targeted a Cocaine Trafficking Organization in Southern New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Juan Velasquez, 27, of Las Cruces, N.M., was sentenced today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to 37 months in prison for participating in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine in Doña Ana County, N.M. Velasquez will be on supervised release for three years after completing his prison sentence.
Velasquez was arrested in Sept. 2016, on an indictment alleging cocaine trafficking charges. The 18-count indictment was the result of a six-month investigation, which was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) program, targeting a drug trafficking organization allegedly led by Joel Ibarra-Torres, 47, a Mexican national, that distributed cocaine in Doña Ana County.
The indictment charged Ibarra-Torres and seven co-conspirators, including several members of Ibarra-Torres’ family, with participating in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy that existed from at least March 2016 until Sept. 2016. The indictment also charged that Ibarra-Torres and two of his co-defendants participated in an international money laundering conspiracy. It also charged certain of the defendants with substantive cocaine trafficking offenses and with using telephones to facilitate their drug trafficking activities. The indictment included forfeiture provisions that seek the forfeiture of at least $31,620, constituting proceeds of the defendants’ criminal activities, to the United States.
On Dec. 22, 2016, Velasquez pled guilty to conspiracy and three counts of distribution of cocaine. In entering the guilty plea, Velasquez admitted that from March 31, 2016 through Sept. 20, 2016, he conspired with his co-defendants to distribute cocaine. In his plea agreement, Velasquez admitted that on July 14, 2016, he directed a courier to pick up five ¼ kilogram packages of cocaine from a co-conspirator in El Paso, Tex., and delivered the cocaine to him in Las Cruces. On July 25, 2016, Velasquez gave the co-conspirator money owed to the source of supply in Mexico for cocaine. On Aug. 25, 2016, Velasquez directed a courier to pick up six ¼ kilogram packages of cocaine in El Paso, Tex., and delivered the cocaine to him in Las Cruces. Velasquez further admitted that he distributed approximately 250 grams of cocaine to an individual working with law enforcement on June 8, 2016, July 14, 2016, and Aug. 25, 2016. The plea agreement stipulates that Velasquez was responsible for distributing approximately 2 to 3.5 kilograms of cocaine.
Seven of Velasquez’s co-defendants have entered guilty pleas and four have been sentenced. Noemi Ibarra, 24, of Las Cruces, pled guilty on April 24, 2017, and Alejandro Chavez, 28, also of Las Cruces pled guilty on July 24, 2017; both are pending sentencing hearings. Joel Ibarra, Jr., 22, of Sunland Park, N.M., pled guilty on Dec. 20, 2016, and was sentenced on April 26, 2017. Denise Duarte, 25, also of Sunland Park, pled guilty on Dec. 23, 2016, and was sentenced on May 1, 2017. Gabriela Castro, 25, a Mexican national pled guilty on Dec. 19, 2016, and was sentenced on April 24, 2017. Rene Cruz-Vargas, 41, a Mexican national, pled guilty on June 22, 2017, and was sentenced on Aug. 15, 2017.
Ibarra-Torres has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The investigation leading to the indictment was conducted by the Las Cruces office of the DEA, the U.S. Border Patrol and the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terri J. Abernathy and Sarah M. Davenport of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch office.