MARCH 05 (ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) –Thirteen residents of Cibola County, N.M., have been charged with drug trafficking and firearms charges as a result of a multi-agency investigation spearheaded by the DEA, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales, Thirteen Judicial District Attorney Lemuel L. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit of the DEA’s El Paso Field Division, and Chief Robert Shilling of the New Mexico State Police.
Eleven of the 13 defendants were arrested earlier today during an early morning arrest operation. One defendant was already in state custody on an unrelated charge, and one has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive. Seven of the 11 defendants arrested today are facing federal charges while the remaining four are facing state charges. Four of the federal defendants are charged in two indictments filed under seal on February 27, 2013, and unsealed earlier today. The other three federal defendants are charged in criminal complaints. The four state defendants arrested today also are charged in criminal complaints.
Today’s arrests are the result of a 22-month multi-agency investigation into drug trafficking in Cibola County, which was led by the DEA and the New Mexico State Police with assistance from the Grants Police Department. The investigation, code-named “Operation Ice Cave,” was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) program. OCDETF is 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.
The federal defendants include Anthony Lusk, 24, of San Rafael, N.M., and Peter Valdez, 26, of Grants, N.M., who are charged with methamphetamine trafficking offenses in a two-count indictment. According to the indictment, Lusk and Valdez conspired to distribute and did distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine in Cibola County in Oct. 2012. If convicted, each faces a minimum ten years to life in prison. Lusk and Valdez were arrested this morning.
A second federal indictment charges Paul Barker, 46, and Leena Martinez, 31, and Nestor Valdez, 49, of San Rafael, with drug trafficking charges. Barker, Martinez and Nestor Valdez allegedly conspired to distribute and did distribute methamphetamine on multiple occasions in Cibola County between May 2011 and Dec. 2012. The indictment also charges Martinez and Nestor Valdez with distributing heroin in Aug. 2012. Nestor Valdez also is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. If convicted on the drug trafficking charges, Barker, Martinez and Nestor Valdez each face a minimum of five years to a maximum of 40 years in prison. Nestor Valdez faces up to ten years in prison if convicted on the firearms charge. Martinez and Nestor Valdez were arrested this morning. Barker has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.
Rachel Basurto, 52, of Grants, was arrested on federal methamphetamine and heroin trafficking charges this morning. If convicted, she faces a minimum five years to a maximum of 40 years in prison. Two other individuals were arrested on federal firearms charges. Adrian O. Leyva-Villalobos, 41, and Alberto Lujan-Ruiz, 50, both Mexican nationals who were residing in San Rafael, are charged with being illegal aliens in possession of firearms. Each faces a maximum of ten years in prison if convicted.
The seven federal defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearance in federal court tomorrow morning.
The following five state defendants were arrested this morning on possession of a controlled substance charges: Donald Cantrell, 63, of San Rafael; Richard Corley, 51, of Milan, N.M.; Isaac Fleming, 41, of San Rafael; Elisha Valery Muller, 27, of Belen, N.M.; and Ermalinda Rodriguez, 42, of San Rafael. Marcela Camacho, 29, of Grants, who was already in state custody on an unrelated charge, also has been charged with possession of a controlled substance. These defendants are charged in criminal complaints filed in the District Court for the Thirteenth Judicial District of the State of New Mexico.
During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers obtained approximately a pound of methamphetamine from the defendants charged in the two federal indictments. During today’s law enforcement operation, they seized an additional 112 grams of heroin and 56 grams of methamphetamine, more than $30,000 in cash, ten firearms, ballistics body armor and a vehicle.
In announcing today’s arrests, U.S. Attorney Gonzales said, “I commend the dedicated efforts of the DEA, the New Mexico State Police and the Grants Police Department as well as the prosecutors in my office and Thirteenth Judicial District Attorney’s Office in this significant OCDETF investigation. Because of their hard work and diligence, the people who live in Cibola County have a safer place to live and raise families.”
“The indictments, arrests and seizures in this investigation are the direct result of outstanding partnerships with state and local law enforcement,” said Mr. Arabit, DEA Special Agent in Charge. “By holding drug dealers responsible for their crimes, we are making significant progress in our efforts to prevent the spread of methamphetamine trafficking and abuse. We will continue to work together to have a positive impact in local communities.”
“This raid was sorely needed in Cibola County,” said District Attorney Martinez. “I want to thank all involved for all their time and effort, and I hope we can continue this type of effort not only within the Thirteenth Judicial District but throughout the State of New Mexico. Drug traffickers beware, we will get you.”
“The New Mexico State Police is committed to addressing quality of life issues in our communities around the state,” said New Mexico State Police Chief Shilling. “Today’s successful operation is proof of that commitment, and that commitment includes strong relationships with our federal partners in making our communities safe and secure. Drugs, and the associated crimes, continue to be one of the highest priority initiatives in our agency, and we will continue to aggressively target those that choose to disrupt the safety, security, and happiness of our citizens. I wish to thank the State Police Investigations Bureau and our federal partners for all of their hard work, dedication, and perseverance in making our communities safer.”
These cases were investigated by the DEA and the New Mexico State Police with assistance from the Grants Police Department. The federal cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel R. Meyers and Shammara H. Henderson, and the state cases are being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Troy Gray. The Albuquerque Police Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Border Patrol, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and Careflight Medevac Services assisted in this morning’s law enforcement operation.
Charges in indictments and criminal complaints are only accusations. All criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.