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Justice News

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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

San Miguel County Man Sentenced to 92 Months for Trafficking Narcotics in Lea and Bernalillo Counties

ALBUQUERQUE – Ruben Estrada, 54, of Las Vegas N.M., was sentenced this morning in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to 92 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release for his conviction on conspiracy and cocaine trafficking charges.

Estrada was one of six defendants charged as the result of an investigation primarily targeting a drug trafficking organization operating in Lea County, N.M., that allegedly was led by co-defendant Leroy Castillo, 33, of Hobbs, N.M.  The investigation, which was led by the FBI and Lea County Drug Task Force (LCDTF) with assistance from the DEA and New Mexico State Police, was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, a nationwide Department of Justice 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.

Estrada was arrested on May 1, 2014, on a criminal complaint charging him, Castillo and four other defendants with conspiracy to violate the federal narcotics laws and possession of cocaine and heroin with intent to distribute.  According to the criminal complaint, Estrada, Castillo, Joe Padilla, 33, Sergio Garza, 35, both of Hobbs, N.M., Richard Armijo-Romero, 23, of Las Vegas, N.M., and Charlie Gutierrez, 35, of Albuquerque, N.M., committed these offenses in Lea and Bernalillo Counties, N.M., between late April 2014 and early May 2014.  Armijo-Romero and Gutierrez were arrested with Estrada on May 1, 2014, Garza was arrested in Hobbs on May 1, 2014, and Padilla was arrested on Feb. 19, 2015.  Castillo has not yet been arrested and is considered a fugitive.

The criminal complaint outlines an investigation revealing that the defendants participated in a conspiracy to transport narcotics from Arizona to New Mexico and planned to distribute the narcotics in Lea and Bernalillo Counties.

Estrada, Castillo and their co-defendants subsequently were indicted in May 2014.  Count 1 of the seven-count indictment charged all six defendants with participating in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy in Lea County in late April and early May 2014.  Count 2 charged the six men with participating in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine in Bernalillo County, N.M., on May 1, 2014.  Counts 3 and 4 charged Castillo with possession of cocaine and heroin with intent to distribute on May 1, 2014 in Lea County, and Counts 5 and 6 charged Garza with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute on May 1, 2014.  Count 7 charged Garza with using and carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime.

On March 11, 2015, Estrada pled guilty to a felony information charging him with participating in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.  Estrada admitted having approximately eight kilograms of cocaine in his possession when he was arrested on May 1, 2014.  Estrada also admitted that he violated the conditions of his supervised release from a prior cocaine trafficking conviction in 2006 by committing the crimes to which he is pleading guilty and by traveling to Arizona without the permission of his probation officer.

Garza, Armijo-Romero, Padilla and Gutierrez have entered guilty pleas and are pending sentencing.  Castillo, who has yet to be arrested, is considered a fugitive.   Individuals with information regarding the whereabouts of Castillo are asked to call the FBI at 505-622-6001.   Charges in criminal complaints and indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case was investigated by the Las Cruces, Roswell and Albuquerque offices of the FBI and the LCDTF, with assistance from the Las Cruces office of the DEA, the New Mexico State Police and the Phoenix Police Department.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terri L. Abernathy and Shaheen P. Torgoley.

The Lea County Drug Task Force is comprised of officers from the Lea County Sheriff’s Office, Hobbs Police Department, Lovington Police Department, Eunice Police Department the Tatum Police Department and the Jal Police Department, and is part of the HIDTA Region VI Drug Task Force.  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.

Updated June 18, 2015