ALBUQUERQUE – Seven residents of Lea County, N.M., including four Mexican nationals, and a resident of Yuma, Ariz., are facing federal narcotics trafficking and money laundering charges as the result of a multi-agency investigation led by the DEA into a significant drug trafficking organization based in Hobbs, N.M., that allegedly imported methamphetamine and cocaine into Lea County from Mexico through Arizona.
Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney and Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the DEA’s El Paso Division announced the federal charges today following a law enforcement operation in Lea County that resulted in the arrest of seven of the eight defendants. Joining them in making the announcement were Special Agent in Charge Waldemar Rodriguez of HSI in El Paso, Commander Sean Roach of the Lea County Drug Task Force, Lea County Sheriff Byron Wester, and Hobbs Police Chief Chris McCall.
The charges in the 20-count indictment are the result of an investigation by the DEA, HSI and the Lea County Drug Task Force of HIDTA Region 6 into a Lea County-based drug trafficking organization allegedly led by Jose Raul Mendivil-Berrelleza, a Mexican national who resides in Hobbs. The investigation was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, a 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.
During the course of the investigation, law enforcement authorities seized 13 kilograms (28.6 pounds) of pure methamphetamine and 1.2 kilograms (2.6 pounds) of cocaine during a traffic stop in Lea County on Feb. 27, 2017. They also seized $14,000 in cash during a vehicle inspection at the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 10 in Dona Ana County, N.M., on July 5, 2017. During today’s law enforcement operation, law enforcement authorities executed federal search warrants at three residences and two travel trailers in Hobbs and seized approximately .25 kilograms (.55 pounds) of cocaine, a handgun and approximately $5000.
In announcing the results of the investigation, Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney said, “This investigation was a coordinated effort to crackdown on drug trafficking in southeastern New Mexico. It is part of our statewide fight against illegal drugs and the cycle of violence that goes hand in hand with drug trafficking. Those who choose to engage in drug trafficking should be on notice that federal, state and local law enforcement are committed to working together to put them out of business and into prison cells.”
“Law enforcement at the local, state and federal levels have joined together to dismantle a criminal organization allegedly responsible for spreading poison on the streets of Hobbs and the surrounding area,” said Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the DEA El Paso Division. “Today’s enforcement operation is part of DEA’s ongoing commitment to attack the drug trafficking that endangers our communities as well as the related violence that goes with it.”
“Today’s arrests and search warrants solidifies HSI’s cooperation with DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to work jointly with our local law enforcement partners to identify transnational organizations that continue to poison our local communities with illegal narcotics,” said Special Agent in Charge Waldemar Rodriguez of HSI El Paso. “Our fight to bring those who violate narcotics trafficking laws to justice will continue unapologetically.”
The 20-count indictment charges alleged ringleader Mendivil-Berrelleza and seven co-defendants with conspiracy, methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking, and money laundering offenses. Count 1 of the indictment charges all eight defendants with participating in a conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine and cocaine in Lea County and elsewhere between Nov. 2016 and July 2017. Count 2 charges Mendivil-Berrelleza and Roberto Rendon-Duran, 70, of Yuma, Ariz., with participating in an international money-laundering conspiracy. Counts 3 through 5 charge certain defendants with methamphetamine trafficking offenses and Count 6 charges certain defendants with a cocaine trafficking offense. Counts 7 through 20 charge certain defendants with using communications devices to facilitate their drug trafficking activity.
Another defendant, who was arrested on June 13, 2017, also has been federally charged as the result of the investigation. Felipe T. Castillo, of Eunice, N.M., is charged in a criminal complaint with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The charge allegedly arises out of an incident during which Castillo, a convicted felon, pointed a firearm at an officer who was conducting surveillance in connection with the investigation.
Mendivil-Berrelleza and the other six defendants who were arrested yesterday and today as the result of the investigation are scheduled to make their initial appearances in federal court in Roswell, N.M., at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 3, 2017. One defendant, Miguel Luna-Arredondo, has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.
“This investigation has been a team effort between all agencies involved and it culminated with a safe takedown. Anytime you can take a large amount of narcotics off the streets is a good day,” said Commander Sean Roach of the Lea County Drug Task Force. “I cannot say thank you enough to all of the agencies that participated throughout the investigation. This investigation and arrests will have a major impact on the stream of narcotics coming into the Lea County area as well as the surrounding areas.”
“This investigation is an example of cooperation between local and federal law enforcement to combat the distribution of illegal narcotics within our community,” said Sheriff Byron Wester of the Lea County Sheriff’s Office. “The Lea County Drug Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Administration jointly completed a successful investigation and operation today that attempts to rid our community of illegal narcotics. I thoroughly appreciate their efforts to make our community a safer place.”
Chief Chris McCall of the Hobbs Police Department said, “The Hobbs Police Department was extremely happy to partner with the other agencies involved in this investigation and we appreciate the partnerships. The results of this investigation will undoubtedly slow the flow of drugs into our community and have a positive impact on the safety of our citizens.”
This case was investigated by the DEA and HSI offices in Las Cruces and the Lea County Drug Task Force with assistance from the Lea County Sheriff’s Office and the Hobbs Police Department. In addition, the following law enforcement agencies participated in today’s law enforcement operation: Hobbs Police Department, Jal Police Department, Lovington Police Department, New Mexico State Police, Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office, IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Border Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terri J. Abernathy and Dustin Segovia of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office are prosecuting the case.
The Lea County Drug Task Force is comprised of officers from the Lea County Sheriff’s Office, Hobbs Police Department, Lovington Police Department, Eunice Police Department the Tatum Police Department and the Jal Police Department, and is part of the NM HIDTA Region VI Drug Task Force. 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.
Indictment in United States v. Jose Raul Mendivil-Berrelleza, et al., 17-CR-1913
Summary of the Charges
Count 1 of the Indictment charges the eight defendants with participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine. The statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than ten years nor more than life and a $10 million fine.
Count 2 charges two defendants with participating in an international money laundering conspiracy. The maximum statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is 20 years and a $500,000 fine.
Counts 3 and 4 charge certain defendants with possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine. The maximum penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than five years or more than 40 years and a $5 million fine.
Count 5 charges certain defendants with possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine. The statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than ten years or more than life and a $10 million fine.
Count 6 charges certain defendants with possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine. The maximum penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than five years or more than 40 years and a $5 million fine.
Counts 7 through 20 charge certain defendants with using communication facilities to facilitate drug trafficking crimes. The maximum statutory penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for four years and a $250,000 fine.
Charges against Defendants
Jose Raul Mendivil-Berrelleza, 33, a Mexican national residing in Hobbs, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 2, 4-6, 8-14, 16, 18 and 19 of the indictment. Mendivil-Berrelleza was arrested this morning.
Daniel L. Perea, 37, of Hobbs, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 4-8, 10, 11, 14, 15, 17 and 20 of the indictment. Perea was arrested this morning.
Jeremy W. Gough, 40, of Hobbs, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 3, 15 and 20 of the indictment. Gough was arrested this morning.
Miguel Angel Luna-Arredondo, 24, a Mexican national, is charged in Counts 1 and 4-6 of the indictment. Luna-Arredondo has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.
Carlos Espinoza-Perez, 27, a Mexican national residing in Hobbs, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 9, 12, 13 and 19 of the indictment. Espinoza-Perez was arrested this morning.
David Torres-Arellanes, 28, a Mexican national residing in Hobbs, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and 16-18 of the indictment. Torres-Arellanes was arrested this morning.
Roberto Rendon-Duran, 70, of Yuma, Ariz., is charged in Counts 1 and 2 of the indictment. Rendon-Duran was arrested this morning.
Reco Curry, 37, of Hobbs, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 4 and 7 of the indictment. Curry was arrested last night.
Criminal Complaint in United States v. Felipe T. Castillo, 17-MJ-1492
Felipe T. Castillo, 38, of Eunice, N.M., is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The criminal complaint alleges that Castillo, who has two prior felony convictions, unlawfully possessed a firearm and ammunition on May 31, 2017, in Hobbs, N.M. According to the criminal complaint, on May 31, 2017, Castillo pointed a firearm at a law enforcement officer who was conducting surveillance in connection with this investigation. If convicted, Castillo faces a maximum statutory penalty of ten years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Castillo was arrested on June 13, 2017, and remains in federal custody pending trial.
Charges in indictments and criminal complaints are only accusations, and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.