Roswell Woman Pleads Guilty to Federal Methamphetamine Trafficking Charges
ALBUQUERQUE – Destiny Stephenson, 35, of Roswell, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to methamphetamine trafficking charges.
Stephenson 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 with state crimes.
The investigation, which was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) program, initially targeted a drug trafficking organization (DTO) allegedly led by Joseph Ray Mendiola, 34, of Roswell, that allegedly distributed methamphetamine in Chaves County. It later expanded to include drug traffickers who allegedly 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.
Sixteen of the 21 defendants facing federal charges were charged in a 24-count indictment filed on Sept. 22, 2015. The remaining five federal defendants were charged in criminal complaints. The 20 state defendants were charged by criminal complaints.
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. Five of the federal defendants, including Mendiola, were arrested on July 31, 2015, the date on which the officers executed the 14 federal search warrants.
During today’s proceedings, Stephenson pleaded guilty to conspiracy and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. In entering the guilty plea, Stephenson admitted that between June 2015 and July 31, 2015, she conspired to distribute methamphetamine in Chaves County. Stephenson further admitted that on July 17, 2015, Chaves County Drug Task Force officers discovered 58.5 grams of methamphetamine in her vehicle which she intended to distribute. At sentencing Stephenson faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.
On Feb. 24, 2016, co-defendant Susan Ceballos, 35, of Roswell, pled guilty to conspiracy and use of a communication device to facilitate a drug trafficking crime. At sentencing, Ceballos faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. A sentencing hearing has yet has yet to be scheduled.
The remaining 19 defendants facing federal charges have entered not guilty pleas to the indictment. Charges in indictments and criminal complaints are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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. The state cases were investigated by the New Mexico State Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy M. Castellano is prosecuting the federal cases, and the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the state 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.