Socorro Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Meth Trafficking Charges
Defendant is One of 34 Individuals Charged as Part of Investigation into Methamphetamine Trafficking on the Mescalero Apache Reservation
ALBUQUERQUE – Carlos Tafoya, Jr., 35, of Socorro, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to methamphetamine trafficking charges. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Tafoya will be sentenced within the range of 12 to 13 years in prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.
Tafoya was one of 34 individuals charged in December 2015, with federal and tribal drug offenses as the result of an 18-month multi-agency investigation led by the DEA and BIA into methamphetamine trafficking on the Mescalero Apache Reservation. Eighteen defendants, including five members of the Mescalero Apache Tribe and 13 non-Natives were charged in six federal indictments and a federal criminal complaint. Sixteen other members of the Mescalero Apache Tribe were charged in tribal criminal complaints approved by the Mescalero Apache Tribal Court.
The investigation leading to the federal and tribal charges was initiated in May 2014, in response to an increase in violent crime on the Mescalero Apache Reservation perpetrated by methamphetamine users. The investigation initially targeted a drug trafficking organization that was allegedly distributing methamphetamine within the Reservation, and later expanded to include two other drug trafficking organizations in southeastern New Mexico that allegedly served as sources of supply for the methamphetamine distributed within the Reservation. In Aug. 2014, the investigation was designated as part of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, which 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 is one of the first OCDETF investigations to utilize electronic surveillance (wiretaps) in Indian Country. More than ten kilograms of methamphetamine were seized during the course of the investigation.
Tafoya was arrested on Nov. 20, 2015, on an indictment charging him and seven other non-Natives with methamphetamine trafficking and money laundering offenses. The indictment charged Tafoya with participation in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.
The indictment against Tafoya was superseded on Sept. 21, 2016, and charged Tafoya with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine from July 1, 2015 through Nov. 13, 2015; distribution of methamphetamine on Oct. 15, 2015; possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute on Nov. 13, 2015; and possession of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime on Nov. 13, 2015. According to the superseding indictment, all offenses took place in Socorro County, N.M. The superseding indictment also included forfeiture provisions requiring Tafoya to forfeit $24,500 to the United States.
During today’s proceedings, Tafoya pled guilty to distribution of methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine. In entering the guilty plea, Tafoya admitted that on Oct. 15, 2016, he sold 364.2 grams of methamphetamine to an undercover law enforcement agent and on Nov. 13, 2015, he possessed approximately 1.2 kilograms of methamphetamine which he intended to sell. Tafoya further admitted that he was on supervised release for a prior conviction when he committed the methamphetamine trafficking offenses on Oct. 15, 2015 and Nov. 13, 2015. Tafoya remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.
Sixteen of the 18 federal defendants have entered guilty pleas. The two remaining federal defendants have entered not guilty pleas to the charges against them. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
The federal and tribal cases were investigated by the Las Cruces office of the DEA, District IV of the BIA’s Office of Justice Services (Mescalero Agency), BIA’s Division of Drug Enforcement, Mescalero Tribal Police Department, Hatch Police Department, FBI and Lea County Drug Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terri J. Abernathy and Clara Cobos of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office are prosecuting the federal cases, and Mescalero Tribal Prosecutor Melissa Chavez is prosecuting the tribal cases.