Two More Defendants Sentenced on 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, 84 of these defendants have been convicted, including 83 who have entered guilty pleas, and 62 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.
Yesterday afternoon, two more Albuquerque residents were sentenced in federal court for their convictions on drug trafficking charges. Guajira Maya Lovato, 45, was sentenced to 60 months in prison followed by four years of supervised release for her conviction arising out of three indictments, filed as the result of the investigation, charging her with methamphetamine trafficking offenses. Jonathan Griego, 27, was sentenced to 30 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his methamphetamine trafficking conviction.
Lovato was charged in following three cases arising out of this operation:
- The indictment in the first case charged Lovato and co-defendants, Juan Jose Rivas, 33, Janet Bowman, 40, and Anthony Barela, 34, with a methamphetamine trafficking offense. The indictment was later superseded to add a fifth defendant, Maria Citlaly Beltran-Ahumada, 37, and another methamphetamine trafficking charge. The superseding indictment charged the five defendants with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine from June 21, 2016 through Aug. 9, 2016, and distributing methamphetamine on June 22, 2016. Beltran-Ahumada pled guilty to an immigration charge on June 9, 2017, and was sentenced on June 26, 2017. The charges against Bowman were dismissed in August 2017. Rivas pled guilty to a methamphetamine trafficking charge on July 27, 2017, and Barela pled guilty to a similar charge on Aug. 3, 2017; both are scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 22, 2018. On July 27, 2017, Lovato entered a guilty plea to a methamphetamine charge, and admitted that on June 22, 2016, she negotiated the sale of two ounces of methamphetamine with a drug purchaser and later helped complete the transaction.
- The indictment in the second case charged Lovato and co-defendant Desiree Otero, 24, with conspiracy to distribute heroin from July 20, 2016 through Aug. 9, 2016 and with distributing heroin on July 20, 2016. Otero pled guilty to distributing heroin on Dec. 7, 2016, and was sentenced on Aug. 15, 2017. The indictment was dismissed as against Lovato.
- The indictment in the third case charged Lovato and co-defendants Daniel Loya, 31, and Richard Cortez, 37, with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine from July 21, 2016 through Aug. 9, 2016, and with distributing methamphetamine on July 21, 2016. On Sept. 22, 2017, Loya pled guilty to distributing methamphetamine, and Cortez pled guilty to a similar charge on Oct. 2, 2017; both are awaiting sentencing. Lovato is scheduled for trial on the indictment in this case on April 2, 2018.
Griego and co-defendants Jesus Ramirez, 28, and Richard Porras, 31, were arrested in Aug. 2016, on separate criminal complaints charging them with drug trafficking and firearms offenses. The three subsequently were jointly charged in a nine-count indictment filed on Aug. 9, 2016, with conspiracy and possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute. The indictment also charged Porras with distributing methamphetamine on three occasions, carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime, and being a felon in possession of a firearm, and Ramirez with possessing methamphetamine and heroin with intent to distribute, carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
On May 12, 2017, Griego pled guilty to a felony information charging him with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and admitted that on Aug. 4, 2016, Griego possessed methamphetamine with the intent distribute the methamphetamine to an individual who unbeknownst to him was an undercover ATF agent. Ramirez pled guilty on Jan. 25, 2017, and was sentenced on Aug. 24, 2017, to 60 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release. Porras pled guilty on April 27, 2017; his sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Sixteen 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 Lovato is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Presiliano Torrez, and the case against Griego was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul H. Spiers.