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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Multi-Agency Investigation Disrupts Heroin Trafficking Pipeline Between Ciudad Juarez and Las Cruces, N.M., Facilitated by Social Media Messaging Platform

15 Defendants Prosecuted as Part of HOPE Initiative Which Seeks to Reduce the Number of Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE – Fourteen residents of Las Cruces, N.M., and a Mexican national are facing federal heroin trafficking charges as the result of a two-year multi-agency investigation into Jesus Salvador Otero-Martinez, 32, of Ciudad Juarez, the alleged source of heroin supply for numerous street-level heroin traffickers in Las Cruces.  The investigation culminated today when 13 of the defendants were arrested in Las Cruces by teams of federal, state, county and local law enforcement officers during an early morning law enforcement operation.  During the course of the investigation, law enforcement authorities arrested 24 Las Cruces residents on various state charges.  Otero-Martinez is one of the two federal defendants who was were arrested during today’s law enforcement operation, and is considered a fugitive.

U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson, 3rd Judicial District Attorney Mark D’Antonio, Special Agent in Charge James C. Langenberg of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, Special Agent in Charge Kyle W. Williamson of the DEA’s El Paso Division, Special Agent in Charge Jack P. Staton of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in El Paso, and Captain Bobby Holden of the HIDTA Regional Interagency Drug Task Force/Metro Narcotics Task Force, announced the results of the investigation, which was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program.  OCDETF is a nationwide 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.

The charges against the defendants are the result of an investigation that began in 2016, and targeted Otero-Martinez, the alleged source of supply for a heroin trafficking operation that allegedly continuously provided heroin to couriers who smuggled heroin in their body cavities from Ciudad Juarez, into El Paso, Texas, and Las Cruces, where it was delivered to street-level dealers.  According to court filings, the defendants used social media messaging platforms to facilitate their heroin trafficking activities.  During the course of the investigation, law enforcement authorities seized approximately 1.17 kilograms of heroin, $6,150.00 in cash, nine firearms, and 465 cartridges of various calibers of ammunition.

On Aug. 22, 2018, a federal grand jury returned four federal indictments charging 15 defendants with conspiracy and heroin trafficking offenses.  Otero-Martinez is charged in each of the four federal indictments with participating in heroin trafficking conspiracies.  The conspiracy counts in the four federal indictments include detailed “overt act” sections that describe the manner in which Otero-Martinez and his co-conspirators allegedly used social media messaging platforms to negotiate numerous heroin transactions and to facilitate their heroin trafficking activities.  The conspiracy counts also detail how couriers allegedly obtained heroin from Otero-Martinez in Juarez; smuggled the heroin into the United States through El Paso; and delivered the heroin to purchasers, including undercover agents and individuals cooperating with law enforcement authorities, in Las Cruces. 

The 13 federal defendants who were arrested today will make their initial appearances in federal court in Las Cruces tomorrow morning. 

The state defendants have been charged in criminal complaints filed by the 3rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office in the 3rd Judicial District Court for the State of New Mexico.

These cases were investigated by the FBI, DEA, HSI and the HIDTA Regional Interagency Drug Task Force/Metro Narcotics Task Force.  The New Mexico State Police, Las Cruces Police Department and Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office assisted with today’s law enforcement operation. 

The HIDTA Regional Interagency Drug Task Force/Metro Narcotics Task Force is comprised of officers from the Las Cruces Police Department, the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, HSI and the New Mexico State Police.  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.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office are prosecuting the federal cases 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 many 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.          

SUMMARY OF CHARGES IN FEDERAL INDICTMENTS

INDICTMENT: United States v. Otero-Martinez, Silva, et al., 18-CR-2754-RB

Charges:  Count 1 of the Indictment charges Jesus Salvador Otero-Martinez, Alfred Silva and Joseph Gonzalez with participating in a heroin trafficking conspiracy.  The statutory penalty for a conviction on this charge is a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine.  Count 2 charges Silva, who has a prior felony conviction for distributing a controlled substance, with being a felon in possession of ammunition.  The statutory penalty for a conviction on this charge is a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Defendants:  Jesus Salvador Otero-Martinez, 32, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.  Alfred Silva, 34, was arrested on June 1, 2018, on a related charge, and Joseph Gonzalez, 23, was arrested this morning.

INDICTMENT: United States v. Otero-Martinez, DeLeon, et al., 18-CR-2755-RB

Charges:  Count 1 of the Indictment charges Otero-Martinez, Erik DeLeon, Matthew Torres, and Donnie Edward Baca with participating in a heroin trafficking conspiracy.  The statutory penalty for a conviction on this charge for Otero-Martinez, DeLeon and Torres is a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine; for Baca, the penalty is a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.  Count 2 charges DeLeon and Baca with distributing heroin.  The statutory penalty for a conviction on this charge is a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Defendants:  Otero-Martinez has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.  Erik DeLeon, 27, Matthew Torres, 33, and Donnie Edward Baca, 26, were arrested this morning.

INDICTMENT: United States v. Otero-Martinez, Romero, et al., 18-CR-2756-RB

Charges:  The single-count Indictment charges Jesus Salvador Otero-Martinez, Brenda Romero, Nathan Gonzales, Desiree M. Vallejos, Samantha M. Ybarra-Ochoa, Elaine Zubiran and Misty A. Baca with participating in a heroin trafficking conspiracy.  The statutory penalty for a conviction on this charge for Otero-Martinez, Romero, Gonzales, Vallejos, Ybarra-Ochoa, and Zubiran is a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison; for Baca, the penalty is a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Defendants:  Otero-Martinez has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.  Brenda Romero, 39, Nathan Gonzales, 32, Desiree M. Vallejos, 29, Misty A. Baca, 36, were arrested this morning; and Samantha M. Ybarra-Ochoa, 26, surrendered to the FBI this morning.  Elaine Zubiran, 27, was arrested on state charges on Aug. 17, 2018, and will be transferred into federal custody to face the charge in the indictment.

INDICTMENT: United States v. Otero-Martinez, Crespin, et al., 18-CR-2757-RB

Charges:  Count 1 of the Indictment charges Otero-Martinez, Michael Crespin, Gabriel Soltero, and Gerardo Zamarripa with participating in a heroin trafficking conspiracy.  The statutory penalty for a conviction on this charge for Otero-Martinez, Crespin and Soltero is a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine; for Zamarripa, the penalty is a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.  Count 2 charges Soltero and Crespin with possessing heroin with intent to distribute, and Count 3 charges Crespin and Zamarripa with the same offense.  The statutory penalty for a conviction on this charge is a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Defendants:  Otero-Martinez has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.  Michael Crespin, 60, and Gabriel Soltero, 35, were arrested this morning.  Gerardo Zamarripa, 32, has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive. 

Fugitives:  Photos of the fugitives, Jesus Salvador Otero-Martinez and Gerardo Zamarripa, are attached to this press release.  Individuals with information about the whereabouts of Otero-Martinez or Zamarripa are asked to contact the FBI at 505-889-1300 or tips.fbi.gov.

Charges in indictments and criminal complaints are only accusations.  Defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Indictment 18CR2754  Indictment 18CR2755  Indictment 18CR2756  Indictment 18CR2757

Gerardo Zamarripa

 

Jesus Salvador Ortero-Martinez

 

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Component(s): 
Updated August 28, 2018