Roswell Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Conspiracy and Drug Trafficking Charges
Defendant is Last of 21 Federal Defendants to Enter Guilty Plea
ALBUQUERQUE – James H. Lewis, 51, of Roswell, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to methamphetamine trafficking charges.
Lewis is one of 41 individuals charged in Sept. 2015, with drug trafficking offenses as a result of an eight-month multi-agency investigation by the FBI, the DEA, Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force, Roswell Police Department, Chaves County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police. Twenty-one of the defendants were charged with federal offenses and the remaining 20 were charged with state offenses. Lewis is the final of the 21 federal defendants to enter a guilty plea to federal charges.
The investigation, which was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) program, initially targeted a drug trafficking organization (DTO) led by Joseph Ray Mendiola,35, that distributed methamphetamine in Chaves County. It later expanded to include drug traffickers who supplied methamphetamine to the Mendiola DTO and other drug traffickers operating in Chaves County. The OCDETF program 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.
Lewis, Mendiola and 14 other federal defendants were charged in a 24-count indictment filed on Sept. 22, 2015. Count 1 of the Indictment charged 15 of the 16 defendants with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine between June 2015 and July 2015. Count 2 charged three defendants with conspiracy to distribute cocaine in July 2015. Counts 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 charged certain defendants with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in July 2015. Counts 8 through 24 charged certain defendants with using communications devices (telephones) to facilitate drug trafficking crimes. All crimes charged in the federal indictment occurred in Chaves County.
During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers executed 14 federal search warrants for 10 residences in Roswell, one residence in Dexter, N.M., and three vehicles. During the execution of those search warrants, the officers seized approximately 5600 grams of methamphetamine, $35,960.00 in cash, and multiple firearms including two assault rifles.
During today’s proceedings, Lewis pled guilty to conspiracy and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. In entering the guilty plea, Lewis admitted conspiring to distribute methamphetamine in Chaves County from June 2015 through July 31, 2015. Lewis also admitted that on July 31, 2015, he received a bag containing approximately seven pounds of methamphetamine from his co-defendants.
At sentencing, Lewis faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.
All of Lewis’ co-defendants have entered guilty pleas and are awaiting sentencing hearings which have yet to be scheduled.
The federal cases were investigated by the Roswell office of FBI’s Albuquerque Division, the Las Cruces office of DEA, Roswell Police Department, Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, the Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force, the New Mexico State Police and the U.S. Marshals Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Randy M. Castellano and John Balla are prosecuting the federal cases.
The HIDTA Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force is comprised of investigators from the Roswell Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI and the Chaves County Sherriff’s Office. 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.