Ringleader of Drug Trafficking Organization that Distributed High Grade Marijuana Throughout New Mexico Sentenced for Marijuana Trafficking and Money Laundering Conviction
Enrique Cavazos will Forfeit Proceeds of Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Activities, Including Property, Vehicles, Cash and Other Assets Valued at more than $1,883,500
ALBUQUERQUE – Enrique S. Cavazos, 32, of Tijeras, N.M., was sentenced late yesterday afternoon in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to six years in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his conviction on marijuana trafficking and money laundering conspiracy charges. Cavazos also was ordered to forfeit the proceeds of his drug trafficking and money laundering activities, including real estate, vehicles, cash, weapons, and jewelry, valued at more than $1,883,500.
U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson, Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, Special Agent in Charge Ismael Nevarez, Jr., of the Phoenix Field Office of IRS-Criminal Investigation, and Chief Michael Geier of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), announced Enrique Cavazos’ sentence.
Enrique Cavazos was arrested in Nov. 2015, after a federal grand jury filed a 26-count indictment charging him, his wife, Lindsey A. Cavazos, 33, and six others with marijuana trafficking and money laundering charges. The indictment was the result of a two-year investigation by the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation and APD into a drug trafficking organization led by Enrique Cavazos that distributed high-grade marijuana throughout New Mexico and across the country. The investigation revealed that the Cavazos drug trafficking organization cultivated and purchased high-grade marijuana in California, distributed the marijuana throughout the country, and laundered its drug proceeds through a number of businesses and bank accounts in New Mexico.
According to the indictment, Enrique and Lindsey Cavazos and six co-conspirators participated in a marijuana trafficking conspiracy that existed from at least Jan. 2008 through Nov. 2015, and operated in the District of New Mexico and elsewhere. The indictment alleged that Enrique Cavazos operated his marijuana trafficking business by directing co-conspirators to purchase large quantities of marijuana in California and distribute the marijuana in New Mexico and other destinations across the country. It further alleged that Lindsey Cavazos was responsible for keeping the books on businesses she and her husband established with proceeds from their marijuana trafficking activities and for the purpose of laundering their drug proceeds. The indictment charged the couple with engaging in a money laundering conspiracy and using bank accounts in the names of several of their businesses, including a restaurant and a car dealership, to launder their drug proceeds.
The indictment was superseded in Aug. 2016, to add money laundering charges against three new defendants: Steven Becerra, 62, the owner of the Becerra Group Tax and Accounting Firm in Albuquerque, who previously was employed by the IRS for 18 years; Deborah Gutierrez, 55, who operated Automated Financial Technologies, which is no longer in business; and Glen F. Lucero, 66, a retired school teacher. The superseding indictment also removed Felix Cavazos, Enrique Cavazos’s father who passed away after the original indictment was filed, from the list of defendants.
On May 24, 2017, Enrique Cavazos pled guilty to a drug trafficking conspiracy charge and a money laundering conspiracy charge. In his plea agreement, Cavazos admitted participating in a conspiracy to distribute marijuana between Jan. 2008 and Nov. 2015, and acknowledged that the conspiracy included the cultivation, shipment and sale of marijuana to wholesalers and end-use customers. Enrique Cavazos also admitted conspiring with others from Jan. 2009 through Nov. 2015, to launder the cash proceeds from his marijuana distribution conspiracy, and engaging in numerous financial transactions using his drug proceeds, which were designed to conceal the nature, source and ownership of the illegal proceeds.
Also on May 24, 2017, Lindsey Cavazos entered a guilty plea to a money laundering conspiracy charge. In her plea agreement, she admitted that from Jan. 2009 through Nov. 2015, she conspired with others to launder the cash proceeds from marijuana distribution. Like her husband, Lindsey Cavazos admitted engaging in numerous financial transactions using drug proceeds, which were designed to conceal the nature, source and ownership of the illegal proceeds. Lindsey Cavazos’ plea agreement recommends that she be sentenced to a five-year term of probation. A sentencing hearing for Lindsey Cavazos has not been scheduled.
As part of their plea agreements, the Cavazos agreed to forfeit property derived, either directly or indirectly, from proceeds obtained from their drug trafficking and money laundering activities including:
- The Tijeras, N.M., residence of Enrique and Lindsey Cavazos, valued at $468,000;
- Two parcels of real property located on Grand Avenue in Las Vegas, N.M., valued at $227,032;
- A parcel of real property located on 12th Street in Las Vegas, N.M., valued at $42,500;
- A parcel of real property located on Grant Street in Las Vegas, N.M., valued at $50,000;
- A parcel of real estate located at 8th Street and Sperry Street in Las Vegas, N.M., valued at $229,000;
- The funds, totaling approximately $104,513.21, in nine bank accounts in the names of companies owned and controlled by Enrique and Lindsey Cavazos;
- 18 vehicles with an aggregate value of $177,500;
- Two Rolex watches valued at $35,600;
- Three pieces of sapphire and diamond jewelry owned by Lindsey Cavazos valued at $1,025.33;
- $473,040 in cash; and
- The fixtures and equipment from Café Bien, a restaurant formerly located on Central Avenue, SW, in Albuquerque, N.M., that was owned and operated by Enrique and Lindsey Cavazos.
Two of the Cavazos’ co-defendants have entered guilty pleas, and one has been sentenced. Antonio Ruelas, 33, of Rio Rancho, N.M., pled guilty on Sept. 8, 2017, and was sentenced on May 2, 2018, to 30 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. Daniel Nieto, 40, of Carlsbad, N.M., pled guilty on May 25, 2017, and is scheduled for sentencing on May 24, 2018.
The remaining six defendants, who have entered not guilty pleas to the superseding indictment, are pending trial, which has yet to be scheduled. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The investigation of this case was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, a 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. It was conducted by the Albuquerque offices of the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation and the APD. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer M. Rozzoni, Timothy S. Vasquez and Joel R. Meyers are prosecuting the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kotz is handling the forfeiture matters.