Ten Alleged Members of Sunland Park Heroin Trafficking Ring Facing Federal Narcotics Trafficking Charges
Case Prosecuted as Part of HOPE Initiative which Seeks to Reduce the Number of Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Ten individuals are facing heroin trafficking charges as the result of a DEA-led investigation targeting a heroin trafficking ring operating out of Sunland Park, N.M. The eight-month investigation concluded this morning after nine of the ten defendants had been arrested. U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the DEA’s El Paso Division, and Chief Jaime Reyes of the Sunland Park Police Department announced the results of the investigation.
The investigation targeted a heroin trafficking organization allegedly led by Raymundo Muñoz, 67, of Sunland Park, N.M., that allegedly obtained its heroin from Juan Francisco Rivera, 60, of El Paso, Tex. The 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.
In announcing the charges, U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez said, “At a time when communities throughout New Mexico are suffering the devastating impact of a heroin and opioid epidemic that is ravaging our nation, the law enforcement community has to prioritize targeting drug trafficking organizations that are feeding this epidemic. As part of the New Mexico HOPE Initiative, DEA has answered the call and is working with law enforcement agencies throughout the state to dismantle these drug trafficking organizations. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is doing its part by aggressively prosecuting these organizations.”
“Last year over 44,000 people died in the United States as a result of a drug overdose, many of those as a result of heroin and opioid abuse,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy. “The DEA and our law enforcement partners are committed to targeting those criminal organizations that are smuggling and distributing this poison and thus fueling this national epidemic.”
“The charges announced today are the result of great teamwork between the Sunland Police Department, DEA, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and several other agencies,” said Chief Jaime Reyes of the Sunland Park Police Department. “I am proud of the work that the men and women of the Sunland Police Department do every day to make our community a safer place for families to live and thrive.”
The ten alleged members of the heroin trafficking ring are charged in a 30-count indictment with participation in a heroin trafficking conspiracy and a series of substantive heroin trafficking offenses. The conspiracy charge alleges that all ten defendants conspired to distribute heroin in Doña Ana County and elsewhere between May 8, 2016 and July 12, 2016. It also includes 23 counts charging certain defendants with distributing heroin or possessing heroin with intent to distribute and six counts charging certain defendants with using communications devices (telephones) to facilitate heroin trafficking crimes.
According to the indictment, Rivera routinely supplied Muñoz with heroin, in quantities ranging from two to nine ounces, which was smuggled by couriers into the United States across the international border in El Paso. The indictment alleges that Muñoz took the heroin to his Sunland Park residence where he distributed the drugs to others. Members of the conspiracy allegedly used telephones to negotiate their heroin deals, arrange for heroin deliveries, and pay for the heroin.
Three of the defendants charged in the indictment, Muñoz, Rivera and Blanca Elisa Tovar, 41, of El Paso, were arrested on July 11, 2016, on a criminal complaint charging them with participating in a heroin trafficking conspiracy. The complaint alleges that the DEA arrested the trio after Tovar crossed the international border into El Paso and was driven by Rivera to a meeting with Muñoz. According to the criminal complaint, DEA seized 7.2 ounces of heroin from the vehicle in which Rivera and Tovar were traveling and a large amount of cash from Muñoz. Thereafter the DEA executed a search warrant at Muñoz’s residence in Sunland Park and seized another five ounces of heroin, $45,000 in cash and a firearm. Muñoz, Rivera and Tovar made their initial appearances on the criminal complaint in federal court in Las Cruces on July 13, 2016, and remain in federal custody pending preliminary hearings and detention hearings scheduled for July 18, 2016.
This morning, six more of the defendants were arrested on the charges in the indictment during an early morning arrest operation. The nine defendants who have been arrested will make their initial appearances on the indictment in federal court in Las Cruces on July 15, 2016. One defendant has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.
During the course of the investigation, DEA agents and task force officers seized approximately a pound of heroin, more than $53,000 in cash and three firearms. These seizures include the heroin, cash and firearm seized on July 11, 2016.
The Las Cruces office of the DEA and Sunland Police Department investigated these cases with assistance from the El Paso office of the FBI, the U.S. Border Patrol, and the Gang Unit of the El Paso Police Department. In addition, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office participated in today’s law enforcement operation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dustin C. Segovia and Renee L. Camacho of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office are prosecuting these cases as part of the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative.
The HOPE Initiative was launched in January 2015 by the UNM Health Sciences Center and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in response to the national opioid epidemic, which has had a disproportionately devastating impact on New Mexico. Opioid addiction has taken a toll on public safety, public health and the economic viability of our communities. Working in partnership with the DEA, the Bernalillo County Opioid Accountability Initiative, Healing Addiction in our Community (HAC), the Albuquerque Public Schools and other community stakeholders, HOPE’s principal goals are to protect our communities from the dangers associated with heroin and opioid painkillers and reducing the number of opioid-related deaths in New Mexico.
The HOPE Initiative is comprised of five components: (1) prevention and education; (2) treatment; (3) law enforcement; (4) reentry; and (5) strategic planning. HOPE’s law enforcement component 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. Learn more about the New Mexico HOPE Initiative at http://www.HopeInitiativeNM.org.
Indictment in United States v. Muñoz, et al., 16-CR-3043-RB
Summary of the Charges
Count 1 of the Indictment charges all ten defendants with participating in a conspiracy to distribute heroin. The defendants face the following statutory maximum penalties if convicted on this count: Muñoz and Rivera each face imprisonment for not less than ten years or more than life and a $10,000,000.00 fine; Sanchez and Delgadillo each face imprisonment for not less than five years or more than 40 years and a $5,000,000.00 fine; and the remaining defendants each face imprisonment for up to 20 years and a fine of up to $1,000,000.00.
Counts 2, 6, 17-18 and 22-23 charge certain defendants with using communications devices (telephones) to facilitate drug trafficking crimes. The statutory maximum penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for not more than four years and a $250,000.00 fine.
Counts 3, 5, 8, 10, 12-13, 19, 21, 24 and 26-30 charge certain defendants with possessing 100 grams and more of heroin with intent to distribute. The statutory maximum penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for a mandatory minimum five years and a maximum of 40 years and a $5,000,000.00 fine.
Counts 4, 7, 9, 11, 14-16, 20 and 25 charge certain defendants with distributing heroin or possessing heroin with intent to distribute. The statutory maximum penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for not more than 20 years and a $1,000,000.00 fine.
Charges Against Defendants
Raymundo Muñoz, 47, of Sunland Park, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 3-21 and 24-30 of the indictment. Muñoz was arrested on July 11, 2016.
Juan Francisco Rivera, 60, of El Paso, Tex., is charged in Counts 1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 12-16, 19, 21 and 24-30 of the indictment. Rivera was arrested on July 11, 2016.
Eleodoro Sanchez, 61, of Canutillo, Tex., is charged in Counts 1, 4, 9 and 11 of the indictment. Sanchez was arrested today.
Salvador Delgadillo, 37, of El Paso, Tex., is charged in Count 1 of the indictment. Delgadillo was arrested today.
Carlos Diaz, 36, of El Paso, Tex., is charged in Count 1 of the indictment. Diaz was arrested today.
Morhiama Abigail Avila, 28, a U.S. citizen who resides in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, is charged in Counts 1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 12 and 13 of the indictment. Avila has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive. A photograph of Avila is attached to this press release. Individuals with information about Avila’s whereabouts are asked to contact the DEA at (915) 892-4613.
Sandra Francis Guzman, 52, of El Paso, Tex., is charged in Counts 1, 14-16, 19, 21 and 24-26 of the indictment. Guzman was arrested today.
Blanca Elisa Tovar, 41 of El Paso, Tex., is charged in Counts 1 and 27-30 of the indictment. Tovar was arrested on July 11, 2016.
Alberto Lozano-Morales, 43, of Sunland Park, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 2, 6, 7 and 18 of the indictment. Lozano-Morales was arrested today.
Armando Daniel Marquez, 53, Sunland Park, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 18-19 and 22-23 of the indictment. Marquez was arrested today.
Criminal Complaint United States v. Muñoz, et al., 16-MJ-2891-LAM
The criminal complaint charges Muñoz, Rivera and Tovar with participating in a heroin trafficking conspiracy on July 11, 2016. If convicted, each defendant faces a statutory maximum penalty of imprisonment for a mandatory minimum five years and a maximum of 40 years and a $5,000,000 fine.
Charges in indictments and criminal complaints are only accusations. All criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.