Rio Rancho Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Heroin Trafficking and Firearms Charges
Defendant Prosecuted as Part of HOPE Initiative which Seeks to Reduce the Number of Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Mark Herrera, 29, of Rio Rancho, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning in federal court to heroin trafficking and firearms charges under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Herrera was arrested in Aug. 2014, on a criminal complaint after law enforcement officers executed a federal search warrant on his vehicle and residence and found more than seven ounces of heroin, marijuana, approximately $5,000.00 in cash, firearms and ammunition, and drug paraphernalia. The officers also seized a semi-automatic pistol and ammunition during the search. During a post-arrest statement, Herrera allegedly told the officers that he sold six to eight ounces of heroin to others every two to three days, and that he possessed the firearm for protection.
During today’s proceedings, Herrera pled guilty to a two-count felony information charging him with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and possession of heroin with intent to distribute. In entering the guilty plea, Herrera admitted that on Aug. 1, 2014, law enforcement officers searched his vehicle and residence and seized seven ounces of heroin, drug paraphernalia, $5,000.00 in cash, and a loaded semi-automatic pistol. At the time of the arrest, Herrera was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because he previously had been convicted of robbery and escape in Colorado.
At sentencing, Herrera faces a statutory maximum penalty of ten years in prison for the firearms charge and a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the heroin trafficking charge. Herrera remains in federal custody pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque offices of the ATF and the DEA and the Rio Rancho Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Presiliano Torrez is prosecuting the case.
This case is being prosecuted pursuant to the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative. The HOPE Initiative is a collaboration 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 trafficking organizations for investigation and prosecution is a priority of the HOPE Initiative.