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Justice News

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

Friday, November 13, 2015

Roswell Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Heroin Trafficking Charge

Defendant Prosecuted as Part of HOPE Initiative which Seeks to Reduce the Number of Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE – Cecil Edward Sexton, 73, of Roswell, N.M., pleaded guilty today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to a heroin trafficking charge under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sexton and his co-defendant Cheryl Ann Gruette, 51, also of Roswell, were arrested on June 16, 2015, on a criminal complaint charging them with conspiracy and possession of heroin with intent to distribute in Chaves County, N.M., on Jan. 2, 2015.  According to the complaint, Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force Agents executed a state search warrant on Sexton’s vehicle and residence in Roswell where they seized a total of 273.6 grams of heroin, $1,352.00 in cash, pill bottles, prescription slips in Sexton’s name, drug paraphernalia, and two rifles.

Sexton and Gruette were subsequently indicted on Sept. 16, 2015, and charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin from Sept. 25, 2014 through Jan. 2, 2015, and possession of heroin with intent to distribute on Jan. 2, 2015.  Both offenses alleged took place in Chaves County. 

During today’s plea hearing, Sexton pled guilty to conspiracy to possess heroin with intent to distribute.  Sexton admitted that on Jan. 2, 2015, he and Gruette traveled to Albuquerque, N.M., to obtain 179.3 grams of heroin from their source of supply and then returned to Roswell.   In Roswell, law enforcement agents found the 179.3 grams of heroin while executing a state search warrant, they also found an additional 94.3 grams of heroin inside Sexton’s residence.  Sexton admitted that he and Gruette intended to distribute the 273.6 grams of heroin to others.

At sentencing Sexton faces a maximum of 20 years in prison followed by not less than three years of supervised release.  He remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.

Gruette has entered a not guilty plea to the complaint and indictment. Charges in indictments and criminal complaints are only accusations.  All criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Gruette is currently scheduled for trial on Dec. 14, 2015. 

This case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of the DEA, the Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force and the Roswell Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna R. Wright of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office is prosecuting the case.

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.

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.

Updated November 13, 2015