Mescalero Apache Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Methamphetamine Distribution Charge
Defendant is One of 34 Individuals Charged as Part of Investigation into Methamphetamine Trafficking on the Mescalero Apache Reservation
ALBUQUERQUE – Wallace Rice, 23, an enrolled member of the Mescalero Apache Nation who resides in Mescalero, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to a methamphetamine distribution charge under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Rice was one of 34 individuals charged 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.
Rice was arrested on Dec. 29, 2015, on a criminal complaint charging him with distribution of methamphetamine on March 25, 2015, in Otero County, N.M. According to the complaint, on March 25, 2015, Rice sold approximately one gram of methamphetamine to undercover law enforcement agents in Mescalero.
During today’s proceedings, Rice pled guilty to a felony information charging him with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and admitted that on March 25, 2015, he sold .75 grams of pure methamphetamine to an individual who, unbeknownst to him, was an undercover law enforcement agent for $100.00.
At sentencing, Rice faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison followed by not less than three years of supervised release. Rice remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.
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. Attorney Terri J. Abernathy of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office is prosecuting the federal cases, and Mescalero Tribal Prosecutor Alta Braham is prosecuting the tribal cases.