Leader of Sunland Park Heroin Trafficking Ring Pleads Guilty to Federal Narcotics Trafficking Charges
Case Prosecuted as Part of HOPE Initiative Which Seeks to Reduce the Number of Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Raymundo Munoz, 69, of Sunland Park, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to heroin trafficking charges resulting from a DEA-led investigation targeting a heroin trafficking ring operating out of Sunland Park, N.M. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Munoz will be sentenced to 72 months in prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.
The investigation targeted a heroin trafficking organization led by Munoz that obtained its heroin from Juan Francisco Rivera, 60, of El Paso, Tex. 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.
Ten members of the heroin trafficking ring are charged in a 30-count indictment with participation in a heroin trafficking conspiracy and a series of substantive heroin trafficking offenses. The indictment charged all ten defendants with conspiring to distribute heroin in Doña Ana County and elsewhere between May 8, 2016 and July 12, 2016. It also included 23 counts charging certain defendants with distributing heroin or possessing heroin with intent to distribute and six counts charging certain defendants with using communications devices (telephones) to facilitate heroin trafficking crimes.
According to the indictment, Rivera routinely supplied Muñoz with heroin, in quantities ranging from two to nine ounces, which was smuggled by couriers into the United States across the international border in El Paso. Muñoz took the heroin to his Sunland Park residence where he distributed the drugs to others. Members of the conspiracy used telephones to negotiate their heroin deals, arrange for heroin deliveries, and pay for the heroin.
During today’s proceedings, Munoz pled guilty to conspiracy and distribution of heroin. In entering the guilty plea, Munoz admitted to conspiring with Rivera and others to distribute approximately 119 ounces of heroin between April and July 2016, using female body carriers who would cross heroin from Mexico into the United States to give to Rivera who would then give the heroin to Munoz. Munoz also admitted that on dates from April 10, 2016, through July 11, 2016, he facilitated the sale and delivery of more than 64 grams of heroin to other individuals. Munoz’s plea agreement indicated that on July 11, 2016, Blanca Elisa Tovar, 42, of El Paso, Texas, smuggled seven ounces of heroin to the United States, intending to deliver the heroin to Rivera. However, Tovar, Rivera and Munoz were arrested and agents subsequently seized approximately $52,304, several ounces of heroin and a firearm from Munoz’s vehicle and residence. Munoz remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.
The following five defendants previously entered guilty pleas in the case:
Alberto Lozano-Morales, 43, of Sunland Park, pled guilty on Dec. 6, 2016, and faces a sentence of a year and a day in prison under the terms of his plea agreement;
Tovar, pled guilty on Dec. 13, 2016, and faces a sentence of 24 months in prison under the terms of her plea agreement;
Carlos Diaz, 38, of El Paso, Texas, pled guilty on Jan. 24, 2017, and faces a sentence of 18 months under the terms of his plea agreement;
Juan Francisco Rivera pled guilty on Feb. 7, 2017, and faces a sentence of 108 months in prison under the terms of his plea agreement; and
Armando Daniel Marquez, 54 of Sunland Park, N.M., pled guilty on Feb. 23, 2017, and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years under the terms of his plea agreement.
Three of the four remaining co-defendants have entered pleas of not guilty to the charges in the indictment; the fourth has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive. Charges in indictments and criminal complaints are only accusations. All criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Las Cruces office of the DEA and Sunland Police Department investigated these cases with assistance from the El Paso office of the FBI, the U.S. Border Patrol, and the Gang Unit of the El Paso Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dustin C. Segovia and Renee L. Camacho of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office are prosecuting these cases as part of the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative.
The HOPE Initiative was launched in January 2015 by the UNM Health Sciences Center and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in response to the national opioid epidemic, which has had a disproportionately devastating impact on New Mexico. Opioid addiction has taken a toll on public safety, public health and the economic viability of our communities. Working in partnership with the DEA, the Bernalillo County Opioid Accountability Initiative, Healing Addiction in our Community (HAC), the Albuquerque Public Schools and other community stakeholders, HOPE’s principal goals are to protect our communities from the dangers associated with heroin and opioid painkillers and reducing the number of opioid-related deaths in New Mexico.
The HOPE Initiative is comprised of five components: (1) prevention and education; (2) treatment; (3) law enforcement; (4) reentry; and (5) strategic planning. HOPE’s law enforcement component 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 and opioid trafficking organizations for investigation and prosecution is a priority of the HOPE Initiative. Learn more about the New Mexico HOPE Initiative at http://www.HopeInitiativeNM.org.