Lincoln County Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Meth Trafficking Charges
Defendant is One of 34 Individuals Charged as Part of Investigation into Methamphetamine Trafficking on the Mescalero Apache Reservation
ALBUQUERQUE – Octavio Herrera, 54, of Ruidoso Downs, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to methamphetamine trafficking charges.
Herrera was one of 34 individuals charged in December 2015, with federal and tribal drug offenses as the result of an 18-month multi-agency investigation led by the DEA and BIA into methamphetamine trafficking on the Mescalero Apache Reservation. Eighteen defendants, including five members of the Mescalero Apache Tribe and 13 non-Natives were charged in six federal indictments and a federal criminal complaint. Sixteen other members of the Mescalero Apache Tribe were charged in tribal criminal complaints approved by the Mescalero Apache Tribal Court.
The investigation leading to the federal and tribal charges was initiated in May 2014, in response to an increase in violent crime on the Mescalero Apache Reservation perpetrated by methamphetamine users. The investigation initially targeted a drug trafficking organization that was allegedly distributing methamphetamine within the Reservation, and later expanded to include two other drug trafficking organizations in southeastern New Mexico that allegedly served as sources of supply for the methamphetamine distributed within the Reservation. In Aug. 2014, the investigation was designated as part of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, which 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. The investigation is one of the first OCDETF investigations to utilize electronic surveillance (wiretaps) in Indian Country. More than ten kilograms of methamphetamine were seized during the course of the investigation.
Herrera was arrested in Sept. 2016, on an indictment charging him and his co-defendants Rumaldo Varela Enriquez, 46, a Mexican national and Johnny Flowers, 51, of Hobbs, with methamphetamine trafficking offenses. The indictment charged Herrera with participation in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and use of a communication facility in relation to a drug trafficking crime.
During today’s proceedings, Herrera pled guilty to conspiracy and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. In entering the guilty plea, Herrera admitted that between March 4, 2015 and March 12, 2015, he conspired with others to distribute methamphetamine in Hobbs and Lovington, N.M. Herrera also admitted that on March 12, 2015, he possessed 230.1 grams of methamphetamine which he intended to distribute to others. At sentencing, Herrera faces a statutory mandatory minimum penalty of five years and a maximum of 40 years. A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Seventeen of the 18 federal defendants including Herrera’s co-defendants have entered guilty pleas. The remaining federal defendant has entered a not guilty plea. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
The federal and tribal cases were investigated by the Las Cruces office of the DEA, District IV of the BIA’s Office of Justice Services (Mescalero Agency), BIA’s Division of Drug Enforcement, Mescalero Tribal Police Department, Hatch Police Department, FBI and Lea County Drug Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terri J. Abernathy and Clara Cobos of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office are prosecuting the federal cases, and Mescalero Tribal Prosecutor Melissa Chavez is prosecuting the tribal cases.