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Press Release

Mexican National Arrested in New Mexico Based on Seizure of More Than Seven Pounds of Heroin

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 – Aaron Martin Mercado-Gracia, 30, a Mexican national from Durango, Mexico, made his initial appearance today in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., on a criminal complaint charging him with possession of more than seven pounds of heroin with intent to distribute.  Mercado-Gracia remains in federal custody pending a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing scheduled for April 13, 2016.

The federal charge against Mercado-Gracia was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, 13th Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Waldemar Rodriguez of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in El Paso, Tex., and New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas.

Mercado-Gracia was arrested on March 25, 2016, after New Mexico State Police officers allegedly found approximately 3.28 kilograms (7.25 pounds) of heroin concealed in the vehicle Mercado-Gracia was driving during a routine traffic stop on Interstate 40 in Cibola County, N.M. 

If convicted of the charge in the criminal complaint, Mercado-Gracia faces a statutory penalty of a mandatory minimum of ten years and a maximum of life in federal prison.  Charges in criminal complaints are merely accusation and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of Homeland Security Investigations and the New Mexico State Police with assistance from the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office for the State of New Mexico.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eva M. Fontanez is prosecuting the case 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 Bernalillo County, DEA, Healing Addiction in our Community (HAC) 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

Updated April 12, 2016

Drug Trafficking