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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mexican Nationals Plead Guilty to Federal Charges Arising Out of Methamphetamine Trafficking on Navajo Reservation

Defendants were Charged in April 2016 based on OCDETF Operation Targeting Methamphetamine Traffickers in Northwestern New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE – Mexican nationals, Miguel Rangel Arce, 36, and Rogelio Santiago Quiroa-Valdez, 25, pled guilty yesterday in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to methamphetamine trafficking charges.  Their co-defendant, Luis Rangel Arce, 44, also a Mexican national, entered a guilty plea in the case last week.

The defendants were amongst the eight San Juan County residents charged with federal narcotics trafficking offenses as the result of a multi-agency investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the HIDTA Region II Narcotics Task Force into methamphetamine trafficking on the Navajo Indian Reservation in northwestern New Mexico.  The three men were arrested in May 2016 during a law enforcement operation that included the execution of two search warrants at residences in Shiprock and Kirtland, N.M.

The investigation leading to the federal charges was initiated in response to an increase in methamphetamine trafficking on the Navajo Indian Reservation in the Shiprock area, and was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program.  This Department of Justice program 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 identified eight defendants, who were charged in five indictments, through a series of methamphetamine purchases by undercover law enforcement officers.  Law enforcement authorities seized more than two and a half pounds of methamphetamine, ten firearms, approximately $1,600 in cash and a vehicle during the operation.  

Miguel Rangel Arce, Quiroa-Valdez and Luis Rangel Arce were charged with methamphetamine trafficking charges in a seven-count indictment filed in April 2016.  The indictment charged the three men with participating in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy between Nov. 2015 and March 2016, and with distributing methamphetamine on six occasions between Jan. 2016 and March 2016.  According to the indictment, the defendants committed the crimes in San Juan County, N.M. 

During yesterday’s proceedings, Miguel Rangel Arce pled guilty to participating in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy and admitted that from Nov. 24, 2015 through March 17, 2016, he conspired to distribute between 500 grams and 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine to an undercover officer.  At sentencing, Miguel Rangel Arce faces a statutory minimum penalty of ten years and a maximum of life in prison.

Quiroa-Valdez pled guilty to distribution of methamphetamine and admitted that on Feb. 24, 2016, he distributed 85.5 grams of methamphetamine to an undercover officer.  At sentencing Quiroa-Valdez faces a statutory minimum penalty of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison.

Luis Rangel Arce pled guilty on Aug. 16, 2016, to distributing methamphetamine on Jan. 11 and 14, 2016.  In entering the guilty plea, Luis Rangel Arce admitted distributing 63.17 grams of methamphetamine to an undercover officer on Jan. 11, 2016, and distributing 55.3 grams of methamphetamine to an undercover officer on Jan. 14, 2016.  At sentencing, Luis Rangel Arce faces a statutory minimum penalty of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison. 

The three defendants remain in custody pending sentencing hearings, which have yet to be scheduled.  They will be deported after completing their prison sentences.

The other five defendants were charged with methamphetamine trafficking charges in four other indictments.  One has entered a guilty plea and is awaiting sentencing.  The other four defendants have entered not guilty pleas and are awaiting trial.  Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless convicted in a court of law.

These cases were investigated by HSI’s Albuquerque office and the HIDTA Region II Narcotics Task Force with assistance from the Farmington office of the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, and BIA’s Division of Drug Enforcement, Shiprock office of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety, New Mexico State Police, San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, Farmington Police Department, and New Mexico National Guard.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Elaine Y. Ramirez is prosecuting the cases.

The HIDTA Region II Narcotics Task Force is comprised of officers and investigators from the Farmington Police Department, San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, Bloomfield Police Department, Aztec Police Department and HSI Albuquerque, and is part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program was created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.  HIDTA is a program of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) which provides assistance to federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States and seeks to reduce drug trafficking and production by facilitating coordinated law enforcement activities and information sharing.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Indian Country Law and Justice
Component(s): 
Updated August 31, 2016