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Press Release

Member of Sunland Park Heroin Trafficking Ring Sentenced to Prison for Federal Narcotics Trafficking Conviction

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico
Case Prosecuted as Part of HOPE Initiative Which Seeks to Reduce the Number of Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE – Blanca Elisa Tovar, 43, of Phoenix, Ariz., was sentenced today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to 24 months in prison for her conviction on heroin trafficking charges resulting from a DEA-led investigation targeting a heroin trafficking ring operating out of Sunland Park, N.M. Tovar will be on supervised release for three years after completing her prison sentence.

 

The DEA’s investigation targeted a heroin trafficking organization led by Raymundo Munoz, 69, of Sunland Park, N.M., that obtained its heroin from Juan Francisco Rivera, 60, of El Paso, Texas. 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 were charged in July 2016, 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.

 

On Dec. 13, 2016, Tovar pled guilty to conspiracy and three counts of possession of heroin with intent to distribute. In entering the guilty plea, Tovar admitted participating in the heroin trafficking conspiracy by crossing heroin from Mexico into the United States, and would then give the heroin to Rivera to give to Munoz to resell to others. Tovar further admitted smuggling the following amounts of heroin: two ounces on May 13, 2016; five ounces on June 24, 2016; five ounces on June 26, 2016; five ounces on June 28, 2016; seven ounces on July 1, 2016; six ounces on July 6, 2016; and seven ounces on June 11, 2016.

 

The following defendants previously entered guilty pleas in the case:

  • Raymundo Munoz pled guilty on March 1, 2017, and was sentenced on Aug. 15, 2017, to 72 months in prison followed by four years of supervised release;

  • Carlos Diaz, 37, of El Paso, Texas, pled guilty on Jan. 24, 2017, and was sentenced on June 29, 2017, to 18 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release;

  • Sandra Francis Guzman, 53, of El Paso, Texas, pled guilty on March 21, 2017, and was sentenced on July 25, 2017, to 18 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release;

  • Alberto Lozano-Morales, 43, of Sunland Park, pled guilty on Dec. 6, 2016, and was sentenced on May 24, 2017 to time served followed by one year of supervised release;

  • 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;

  • 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; and

  • Eleodoro Sanchez, 62, of Canutillo, Texas, pled guilty on March 7, 2017, and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years under the terms of his plea agreement.

 

One of the two remaining co-defendants has entered a plea of not guilty to the charges in the indictment; the second 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.

Updated August 23, 2017

Topic
Drug Trafficking