Las Cruces Resident Sentenced to Ten Years for Trafficking Heroin in Doña Ana County
Defendant was One of 21 Individuals Charged as Result of 2013 Multi-Agency Investigation; Defendants Prosecuted as Part of HOPE Initiative which Seeks to Reduce the Number of Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico.
ALBUQUERQUE – Esther Soliz, 51, of Las Cruces N.M., was sentenced today in Las Cruces federal court to ten years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release for heroin trafficking charges in connection with five cases filed in 2013, as the result of a multi-agency investigation into drug trafficking in Doña Ana County, N.M.
Soliz, together with a Mexican national and 19 other Las Cruces residents, were charged with heroin trafficking offenses in five indictments filed in Nov. 2013, as a result of a multi-agency investigation led by the FBI that targeted the heroin trafficking activities of Jovita Belmonte-Gonzalez in Doña Ana County. Belmonte-Gonzales, 46, a Mexican national from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, was named as the lead defendant in four of five indictments which charged her with supplying heroin to five drug trafficking organizations that distributed heroin in Doña Ana County.
The lead defendant, Belmonte-Gonzalez, pled guilty to heroin trafficking charges in four of the five cases in June 2014, and admitted conducting frequent heroin transactions with her co-defendants between June 2013 and Oct. 2013. Court records reflect that Belmonte-Gonzalez typically negotiated heroin sales by telephone from Juarez and her co-defendants traveled from Doña Ana County to Juarez where they purchased the heroin from her and later distributed the drugs in Doña Ana County. Belmonte-Gonzales faces a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, and will be deported after she completes her prison sentence. She remains in federal custody pending her sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
Soliz entered a guilty plea to the indictment on Dec. 5, 2014, and admitted conspiring, purchasing and transporting heroin for Belmonte-Gonzalez to distribute in Doña Ana County from Sept. 25, 2013 through Oct. 27, 2013.
All 21 of the defendants arrested as a result of the investigation have entered guilty pleas. Nineteen defendants have been sentenced, and the remaining two are currently awaiting sentencing hearings.
These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney E. Garreth Winstead, III, of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office. The investigation leading to the charges in the four cases was led by the Las Cruces office of the FBI in collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Las Cruces office of the DEA, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Las Cruces Police Department and the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office.
The investigation 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.
This case is being prosecuted pursuant to the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative. The HOPE Initiative is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center that is partnering with the Bernalillo County Opioid Accountability Initiative with the overriding goal of reducing the number of opioid-related deaths in the District of New Mexico. The HOPE Initiative comprised of five components: (1) prevention and education; (2) treatment; (3) law enforcement; (4) reentry; and (5) strategic planning. The law enforcement component of the HOPE Initiative is led by the Organized Crime Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DEA in conjunction with their federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partners. Targeting members of major heroin trafficking organizations for investigation and prosecution is a priority of the HOPE Initiative.