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Press Release

Two New Mexico men sentenced for Rio Arriba drug trafficking, money laundering conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico
A third co-defendant is awaiting sentencing

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Alexander M.M. Uballez, United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, announced today that José Mendoza and Ryan Rodriguez were sentenced for their parts in a drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy.

A grand jury indicted the defendants on Feb. 25, 2020. According to their plea agreements and other court records, from June 22, 2018, through Feb. 25, 2020, José Mendoza, 34, of Medanales, New Mexico, and his wife, Natalie Mendoza, 37, conspired with others to distribute cocaine in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. Rodriguez, 29, of Chamita, New Mexico, would obtain cocaine from José Mendoza, convert it to cocaine base, then sell it to others in the Española Valley. From Oct. 7, 2019, to Jan. 8, 2020, Rodriguez sold and arranged to sell cocaine and cocaine base to an undercover agent.

 Natalie Mendoza kept records of drug sales and collected proceeds from drug transactions.  Natalie and José Mendoza deposited the proceeds from illegal drug transactions into checking, savings, and loan accounts at various financial institutions to conceal the source of the money. Deposits were often split to avoid amounts that would trigger reporting requirements. The couple also made large payments towards loans or mortgages, including loans for vehicles purchased under other names. José Mendoza admitted to using false income statements to qualify for loans.

José and Natalie Mendoza pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to commit money laundering. On June 7, José Mendoza was sentenced to 10 years and four months in prison followed by four years of supervised release. Sentencing for Natalie Mendoza has been continued to a date to be determined.

Rodriguez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, five counts of using a telephone to facilitate drug trafficking offenses, one count of distributing cocaine base, four counts of distribution of 28 grams and more of cocaine base, and one count of possession with intent to distribute 280 grams and more of cocaine base. Rodriguez was sentenced on June 10 to four years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

In addition to their prison terms, the co-defendants in the case also forfeited numerous vehicles, multiple firearms and $24,893.69 in U.S. currency.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Albuquerque District Office investigated this case with assistance from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Region III Narcotics Task Force, which includes members of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, New Mexico State Police, Santa Fe Police Department, Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office and the Taos Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Nelson, Peter Eicker and Steve Kotz prosecuted the case.

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Updated June 15, 2022

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 22-138