Two Women Sentenced for Federal Drug Trafficking Convictions Arising Out of Seizure of Five Pounds of Heroin
Defendants Prosecuted as Part of HOPE Initiative Which Seeks to Reduce the Number of Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Today in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., two women were sentenced for their convictions on drug trafficking charges arising out of the seizure of five pounds of heroin. Tabitha Marie Ochoa, 30, of Merced, Calif., was sentenced to 36 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, and Maryhelen Princess Ochoa, 32, a U.S. citizen residing in Sonora, Mexico, was also sentenced to 36 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.
Tabitha Marie Ochoa and co-defendant Maryhelen Princess Ochoa, were arrested in Feb. 2017, after law enforcement officers found nine bundles of heroin weighing approximately 2387 grams (5.26 pounds) in their vehicle during a routine traffic stop. According to the complaint, the traffic stop took place on Jan. 30 and 31, 2017, in Cibola County, N.M.
On May 19, 2017, Tabitha Marie Ochoa pled guilty, and on Aug. 24, 2017, Maryhelen Princess Ochoa pled guilty. Both entered guilty pleas to felony informations charging them with possession of heroin with intent to distribute. In entering the guilty pleas, Tabitha Marie Ochoa and Maryhelen Princess Ochoa admitted possessing approximately 2,387 grams (5.26 pounds) of heroin in a safe that was seized from the vehicle in which they were traveling on Jan. 31, 2017. Tabitha Marie Ochoa and Maryhelen Princess Ochoa further admitted that they were being paid to deliver the heroin to another person.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of Homeland Security Investigations and the New Mexico State Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elaine Y. Ramirez prosecuted the 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.