Mexican National Facing Federal Charge Based on Nine-Pound Heroin Seizure in New Mexico
Case Prosecuted as Part of HOPE Initiative which Seeks to Reduce the Number of Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Roberto Esmerardo Lopez-Gaxiola, 35, a Mexican national, made his initial appearance this morning in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., on a heroin trafficking charge arising out of the seizure of more than nine pounds of heroin at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in southern New Mexico on March 14, 2018. Lopez-Gaxiola remains in federal custody pending a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing, which have yet to be scheduled.
U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested Lopez-Gaxiola on March 14, 2018, after allegedly seizing approximately 4.2 kilograms (9.25 pounds) of heroin concealed in Lopez-Gaxiola’s vehicle. According to the criminal complaint, the agents allegedly found the heroin in Lopez-Gaxiola’s vehicle during an inspection at the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint located on Interstate 25 near Truth or Consequences, N.M., in Sierra County, N.M.
If convicted of the charges in the criminal complaint, Lopez-Gaxiola faces a statutory mandatory minimum penalty of ten years and a maximum of life in federal prison. Charges in criminal complaints are merely accusations and criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was investigated by the Las Cruces Office of the DEA and the U.S. Border Patrol. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Joni Autrey of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office 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 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.