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Justice News

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Santa Fe Man Pleads Guilty to Unlawfully Trafficking “Suboxone”

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

ALBUQUERQUE – James Barela, 41, of Santa Fe, N.M., pleaded guilty today in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to participating in a conspiracy to distribute Buprenorphine, more commonly known as “Suboxone,” in violation of the federal narcotics laws.  Under the terms of his plea agreement, Barela will be sentenced to 12 months and one day in federal prison followed by at least two years of supervised release.

Barela was arrested on March 12, 2015, on an indictment charging him and co-defendant Edward Owens, 20, also of Santa Fe, with conspiracy and possession of Suboxone with intent to distribute.  According to the indictment, Barela and Owens committed these crimes between Aug. 6, 2014 and Aug. 12, 2014, in Santa Fe County, N.M.  During the period charged in the indictment, Owens was employed as a corrections officer at the Santa Fe County Adult Correctional Facility.

During today’s change of plea hearing, Barela pled guilty to Count 1 of the indictment, charging him with participating in a Suboxone trafficking conspiracy.  In entering the guilty plea, Barela admitted that from Aug. 4, 2014 through Aug. 12, 2014, while he was incarcerated in a correctional facility in Santa Fe County, he conspired with Owens to distribute Suboxone to inmates in the correctional facility.

Barela remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.  At sentencing, Barela faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.

Owens has entered a plea of not guilty to the indictment.  Charges in indictments are merely accusations, and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI, the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, and the Santa Fe Corrections Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaheen P. Torgoley is prosecuting the case 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 trafficking organizations for investigation and prosecution is a priority of the HOPE Initiative.

Updated June 10, 2015