Two More Defendants Sentenced and One More Pleads Guilty to Charges Arising Out of ATF-Led Operation Targeting Drug Trafficking and Firearms Crime in Bernalillo County
Defendants among the 103 Individuals Federally Charged as the Result of ATF-Led Investigation Pursued in Support of Federal “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative
ALBUQUERQUE – In Aug. 2016, a multi-agency investigation led by the ATF concluded with the filing of 59 federal indictments and a federal criminal complaint charging 103 Bernalillo County residents with federal firearms and narcotics trafficking offenses. To date, 85 of these defendants have been convicted, including 84 who have entered guilty pleas, and 64 of them have been sentenced.
The investigation was undertaken in support of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution. Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies collaborate with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution primarily based on their prior criminal convictions with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.
Today, two more Albuquerque residents were sentenced for their convictions on drug trafficking charges in federal court. Anthony Barela, 34, was sentenced to 60 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his methamphetamine trafficking conviction. Chere Juarez, 29, was sentenced to 42 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for her methamphetamine trafficking conviction.
In addition, Albuquerque resident Letitia Toya, 39, entered a guilty plea in federal court in two cases charging her with methamphetamine trafficking and assault on a federal officer. Under the terms of her plea agreement, Toya will be sentenced within the range of ten to twelve years in federal prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.
Barela and co-defendants Guajira Maya Lovato, 45, Janet Bowman, 40, and Juan Jose Rivas, 33, were charged by indictment in July 2016, with a methamphetamine trafficking offense. The indictment later was superseded to add a fifth defendant, Maria Citlaly Beltran-Ahumada, 37, and another methamphetamine trafficking charge. The superseding indictment charged the five defendants with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine from June 21, 2016 through Aug. 9, 2016, and with distributing methamphetamine on June 22, 2016. On Aug. 3, 2017, Barela pled guilty to an information charging him with distributing methamphetamine. Lovato pled guilty on July 27, 2017, and was sentenced on Feb. 15, 2018, to 60 months in prison followed by four years of supervised release. Beltran-Ahumada pled guilty on June 9, 2017, and was sentenced on June 26, 2017 to time served. Rivas pled guilty on July 27, 2017, and is scheduled for sentencing on March 8, 2018. The charges against Bowman were dismissed on Aug. 22, 2017.
Juarez and co-defendant David Rayford, 26, were charged in a three-count indictment on June 30, 2016. Rayford and Juarez were charged with distribution of methamphetamine on June 7, 2016, and June 14, 2016, and Rayford was charged individually with being a felon in possession of a firearm on May 27, 2016. On June 19, 2017, Juarez pled guilty to a felony information charging her with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. In entering the guilty plea, Juarez admitted that on June 14, 2016, she sold approximately two ounces of methamphetamine to an undercover law enforcement agent. Rayford is currently scheduled for trial in April 2018.
Toya was charged in the following two cases arising out of this operation. The indictment in the first case charged Toya and co-defendant Eugene Fales, 53, in a six-count indictment with methamphetamine trafficking and firearms offenses. The indictment charged Toya and Fales with distributing methamphetamine on May 23, 2016, May 25, 2016, and June 20, 2016, and with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine on May 25, 2016 and June 20, 2016. Toya was charged individually with being a felon in possession of firearms on May 27, 2015, because of her prior felony convictions for possession of a controlled substance, tampering with evidence, aggravated assault on a peace officer and trafficking a controlled substance with intent to distribute. Fales pled guilty on Aug. 14, 2017, and is pending sentencing. The indictment in the second case charged Toya with assaulting a federal officer on July 6, 2016.
During today’s proceedings, Toya pled guilty to Count 3 in the first case charging her with distributing methamphetamine, and to the indictment in the second case. In entering the guilty plea in the first case, Toya admitted that on May 25, 2016, she arranged for the delivery and distributed approximately 45.8 grams of methamphetamine to an undercover law enforcement agent. In pleading guilty in the second case, Toya admitted that on July 6, 2016, she assaulted a federal officer by spitting in the face of a federal officer while being taken into custody. Toya remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
Fifteen of the defendants charged as the result of the ATF investigation have entered not guilty pleas. Charges in indictments are merely accusations, and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law. Two defendants are fugitives and the charges against two defendants have been dismissed.
These cases were investigated by the Albuquerque office of ATF. The case against Barela was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Presiliano Torrez, the case against Juarez was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David M. Walsh and Norman Cairns, and the case against Toya is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Walsh.