Pharmacy Robber Sentenced to 141 Months for Conviction on Federal Hobbs Act, Drug Trafficking and Firearms Charges
Defendant Prosecuted Pursuant to Federal “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative and The HOPE Initiative which Seeks to Reduce Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Victor Hurtado, 21, of Albuquerque, N.M., was sentenced today in federal court to 141 months in federal prison for his conviction on Hobbs Act, drug trafficking and firearms charges arising out of a pharmacy robbery in Jan. 2015, and a traffic stop in March 2015. Hurtado will be on supervised release for five years after completing his prison sentence.
The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Kari E. Brandenburg, Acting Special Agent in Charge Bryan Finnegan of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the DEA’s El Paso Division, Chief Gorden Eden, Jr., of the Albuquerque Police Department, Chief Pete N. Kassetas of the New Mexico State Police.
U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez noted that pharmacy robberies are where New Mexico’s high violent crime rates and prescription drug crisis intersect. “Pharmacy robbers put innocent people at risk when they rob pharmacies at gunpoint to obtain opioids that they then sell on the street at astronomical prices to addicts. Law enforcement investigations reveal that pharmacy robbers often engage in serial robberies, compounding the negative impacts of their criminal behavior. This is why targeting these criminals for federal investigation and prosecution is a priority for the entire law enforcement community.”
“Another conviction and sentencing under the Worst of the Worst Initiative equals another big step for our community in the fight against the criminal element. We are so pleased to have worked with the U.S. Attorney's Office to ensure this case would receive fair, swift, and just prosecution,” said 2nd Judicial District Attorney Kari E. Brandenburg.
“One way to stop violent criminals who endanger our communities is for law enforcement and prosecutors to work together,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Bryan Finnegan. “This case is a good example of how this kind of partnership makes a difference: the individual sentenced today was among six Albuquerque residents indicted earlier this year for a string of drug store robberies, thanks to a multi-agency investigation. FBI Special Agents and staff worked closely on this case with the U.S. Attorney's Office, Drug Enforcement Administration, Albuquerque Police Department and New Mexico State Police.”
Hurtado and his co-defendant, Joseph Montano, 23, also of Albuquerque, were two of six defendants charged in four indictments with robbing retail pharmacies in Albuquerque. The indictment against Hurtado and Montano alleged that the two men (1) violated the Hobbs Act by interfering with interstate commerce by robbery and violence; (2) brandished a firearm during a crime of violence; (3) violated the Controlled Substance Registrant Act by robbery involving controlled substance; (4) violated the Safe Doses Act by theft of medical products; and (5) possessed Oxycodone with intent to distribute. The charges against Hurtado and Montano arose from the Jan. 6, 2015, armed robbery of the Smith’s Pharmacy located at 4016 Louisiana Blvd. NE in Albuquerque.
On July 1, 2015, Hurtado pled guilty to robbing a commercial business engaged in interstate commerce; brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, and possession of Oxycodone with intent to distribute. In entering the guilty plea, Hurtado admitted that on Jan. 6, 2015, he entered the Smith’s Pharmacy, jumped over the counter while brandishing a firearm, and ordered the pharmacist to open the safe where controlled substances were kept. He also admitted pointing the firearm at the pharmacy employees to gain their compliance, and stealing bottles of Oxycodone and other drugs from the pharmacy’s inventory.
Hurtado also pled guilty on July 1, 2015, to possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and admitted that he was arrested on state charges on March 5, 2015, after the New Mexico State Police found 54 grams of heroin and 133 grams of methamphetamine in the vehicle Hurtado was driving.
Montano has entered a not guilty plea to the indictment. He remains in federal custody pending trial which is currently scheduled for Jan. 29, 2016. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
“DEA and our partners are committed to thoroughly investigating, arresting and punishing anyone responsible for the diversion of opioids, whether it be individuals who are prescribed these medications and divert them for personal profit, or drug organizations who think they can violently rob pharmacies to sell these drugs in our communities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy. “Opioid addiction is an epidemic and we will continue to lock up anyone trying to profit from the sale of these dangerous and highly addictive drugs.”
“We are all committed to curbing crime, especially violent crime, in our city,” said Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden, Jr. “Our partnerships and collaborative efforts continue to ensure we rid our streets of the Worst of the Worst offenders. We truly appreciate the work of our local and federal partners and know our community is safer following this sentencing and the corresponding indictments.”
“This is another great example of agencies working together to make our communities safer,” said New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas. “We are committed to bringing these violent criminals to justice. We will continue to dedicate our resources to track down, and apprehend individuals involved in the drug trade. I cannot express my gratitude enough to all the agencies involved.”
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI, the Tactical Diversion Squad of the DEA in Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Police Department and the New Mexico State Police, with assistance from the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Bernalillo County. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joel R. Meyers and Shaheen P. Torgoley.
DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squads combine DEA resources with those of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in an innovative effort to investigate, disrupt and dismantle those suspected of violating the Controlled Substances Act or other appropriate federal, state or local statutes pertaining to the diversion of licit pharmaceutical controlled substances or listed chemicals.
These cases are being prosecuted as part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution. Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible. Because New Mexico’s violent crime rates, on a per capita basis, are amongst the highest in the nation, New Mexico’s law enforcement community is collaborating to target repeat offenders from counties with the highest violent crime rates, including Bernalillo County, under this initiative.
This case is being prosecuted pursuant to the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative. The HOPE Initiative is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center that is partnering with the Bernalillo County Opioid Accountability Initiative with the overriding goal of reducing the number of opioid-related deaths in the District of New Mexico. The HOPE Initiative comprised of five components: (1) prevention and education; (2) treatment; (3) law enforcement; (4) reentry; and (5) strategic planning. The law enforcement component of the HOPE Initiative 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.