Member 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 – Armando Daniel Marquez, 54, 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.
The investigation targeted a heroin trafficking organization allegedly led by Raymundo Muñoz, 68, of Sunland Park, N.M., that allegedly 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 alleged 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 conspiracy charge alleges that all ten defendants conspired to distribute heroin in Doña Ana County and elsewhere between May 8, 2016 and July 12, 2016. It also includes 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. The indictment alleges that Muñoz took the heroin to his Sunland Park residence where he distributed the drugs to others. Members of the conspiracy allegedly used telephones to negotiate their heroin deals, arrange for heroin deliveries, and pay for the heroin.
During today’s proceedings, Marquez pled guilty to conspiracy, distribution of heroin and use of a communication facility to further the commission of a drug trafficking crime. In entering the guilty plea, Marquez admitted to conspiring with Munoz to distribute heroin to others between May and July 2016. More specifically, Marquez admitted that on May 26, 2016, he sold eight grams of heroin to other individuals and from May 26, 2016, through June 26, 2016, he facilitated the sale and delivery of approximately 40 to 60 grams of heroin.
Four other defendants previously have entered guilty pleas in the case. Alberto Lozano-Morales, 43, of Sunland Park, pled guilty on Dec. 6, 2016, and under the terms of his plea agreement, Lozano-Morales will be sentenced to a year and a day in prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. Blanca Elisa Tovar, 42, of El Paso, Texas, pled guilty on Dec. 13, 2016, and under the terms of her plea agreement, Tovar will be sentenced to 24 months in prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. Carlos Diaz, 38, of El Paso, Texas, pled guilty on Jan. 24, 2017. Juan Francisco Rivera pled guilty on Feb. 7, 2017, and under the terms of his plea agreement, Rivera will be sentenced to 108 months in prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. Diaz, Lozano-Morales, Tovar, Rivera and Marquez are awaiting sentencing hearings which have yet to be scheduled.
The remaining co-defendants have entered pleas of not guilty to the charges in the indictment. 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.