Santa Fe Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Oxycodone and Marijuana Trafficking Charges
Defendant was a Member of Oxycodone Trafficking Ring Prosecuted as Part of HOPE Initiative which Seeks to Reduce the Number of Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Ashraf Nassar, 31, of Santa Fe, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to participation in conspiracies to distribute Oxycodone and marijuana.
Nassar and co-defendants Phillip Anaya, 38, Daniel Trujillo, 32, Krystal Holmes, 29, and Sarah Romero, 36, are five Santa Fe residents charged in Sept. 2013, with participating in an Oxycodone trafficking ring in a 16-count indictment. The indictment subsequently was superseded in Oct. 2013, to include two additional defendants, Clarence Lee Cline, II, 66, and Mary Ann DeStefano, 53, both also of Santa Fe, and adding five new charges including conspiracy to distribute marijuana, manufacturing marijuana and maintaining a place for the purpose of manufacturing marijuana.
Nassar, Anaya, Trujillo, Holmes and Romero were arrested in Sept. 2013 as part of a multi-agency law enforcement operation that included the execution of search warrants at three residences and a business in Santa Fe. The investigation, “Operation High Desert Bash,” was initiated in Jan. 2013 by the DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squad in Albuquerque, N.M., the Santa Fe Police Department and HIDTA Region III Narcotics Task Force in response to the epidemic increase in prescription drug abuse, addiction and overdose deaths in New Mexico, particularly among teens and young adults.
Operation Desert Bash investigation 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. The investigation primarily targeted a drug trafficking organization unlawfully distributing quantities of Oxycodone in Santa Fe County. Oxycodone is an opioid narcotic pain reliever similar to morphine that is medically prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain and can be habit-forming. Officers seized approximately 7300 mg of Oxycodone during the investigation.
Count 1 of the 21-count superseding indictment charged the Nassar, Anaya, Trujillo, Holmes and Romero with conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone in Santa Fe County between Dec. 2012 and Sept. 2013. Counts 2 through 4 charged Nassar, Anaya and Holmes with substantive Oxycodone distribution offenses, Nassar, Anaya, Trujillo, Holmes and Romero were charged with using telephones to facilitate drug trafficking crimes in Counts 5 through 17. Count 18 charged Nassar, Cline and DeStefano with conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Counts 19 through 21 charged Cline and DeStefano with conspiracy to distribute marijuana, conspiracy to maintain a place for the purpose of manufacturing marijuana and maintaining a place for the purpose of manufacturing marijuana.
During today’s proceedings, Nassar pled guilty to two counts of the superseding indictment; conspiracy to traffic Oxycodone and marijuana. In entering the guilty plea, Nassar admitted that from Dec. 8, 2012 through Sept. 26, 2013, in Santa Fe he received Oxycodone from multiple sources of supply and would in turn provide that Oxycodone to re-distributers and users. Nassar also admitted that from Jan. 2, 2013 through Sept. 23, 2013, he was supplied “high grade” marijuana which he would then redistribute to other lower-level redistributors.
All but one of Nassar’s co-defendants have entered guilty pleas. Anaya pled guilty on Nov. 19, 2014, and was sentenced on April 9, 2015, to 46 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Trujillo pled guilty on Jan. 30, 2015, and was sentenced on April 2, 2015, to 18 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Romero pled guilty on Oct. 28, 2014, and was sentenced on March 26, 2015, to 18 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Holmes pled guilty on May 26, 2015, and DeStefano pled guilty on March 27, 2015, sentencing hearings have yet to be scheduled.
Cline has entered a plea of not guilty and is awaiting trial. Charges in indictments are only accusations. All criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was investigated by the Tactical Diversion Squad of the DEA’s Albuquerque office, the Santa Fe Police Department and the HIDTA Region III Drug Enforcement Task Force, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shammara H. Henderson and Joel R. Meyers.
DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squads combine DEA resources with those of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in an innovative effort to investigate, disrupt and dismantle those suspected of violating the Controlled Substances Act or other appropriate federal, state or local statutes pertaining to the diversion of licit pharmaceutical controlled substances or listed chemicals.
The HIDTA Region III Drug Enforcement Task Force is comprised of officers from the New Mexico State Police, Santa Fe Police Department and Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. It is part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program which 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.