AUG 06 (ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) – A federal jury returned a verdict earlier today finding Miguel Bustamante-Conchas, 39, a Mexican national with legal permanent resident status in the United States, guilty on heroin trafficking charges after a six-day trial, announced U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez and Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the DEA’s El Paso Field Division.
Bustamante-Conchas was one of seven men arrested in June 2013 on federal narcotics trafficking charges as a result of a 15-month multi-agency investigation targeting heroin traffickers operating out of Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, an area that has experienced a growing, wide-spread heroin abuse problem among teens and young adults in recent years. More than 25 pounds of heroin were seized during the course of the investigation.
Two indictments were filed as a result of the investigation. Bustamante-Conchas and four other men were charged in one indictment while two others were charged in a second indictment. The other six defendants entered guilty pleas to heroin trafficking charges while Bustamante-Conchas elected to proceed to trial.
Trial against Bustamante-Conchas began on July 30, 2014, on a three-count superseding indictment charging him with conspiracy to distribute large quantities of heroin in Bernalillo County, N.M., from Oct. 2012 to June 2013; aiding and abetting the possession of heroin with intent to distribute; and aiding and abetting the use of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime. On Aug. 4, 2014, the court dismissed the firearms charge at the conclusion of the United States’ case and submitted the two heroin trafficking charges to the jury yesterday afternoon. The jury returned a verdict of guilty on both heroin trafficking charges late this morning.
The evidence at trial established that Bustamante-Conchas played a leadership role in a major heroin trafficking organization by managing the acquisition, storage and distribution of kilograms of heroin and overseeing the collection of cash proceeds from the sale of heroin. Evidence of Bustamante-Conchas role in the drug trafficking organization was secured from wiretaps on telephones used by his subordinates, evidence seized during a law enforcement operation on June 14, 2013, and evidence seized on June 19, 2013. Evidence obtained on June 14, 2013, included three pounds of heroin, drug ledgers, numerous cellphones and narcotics paraphernalia, which were seized at the residences maintained as stash houses by Bustamante-Conchas and his co-conspirators. An additional 22 pounds of heroin were seized on June 19, 2013 from another of the organization’s stash houses.
Bustamante-Conchas was remanded into federal custody after the jury delivered its verdict and will remain detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. At sentencing, Bustamante-Conchas faces a prison term of not less than ten years and not more than life followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.
Three of Bustamante-Conchas’ four co-defendants have resolved the charges against them by pleading guilty to participating in a heroin trafficking conspiracy. Angel Miramontes-Cruz, 22, pleaded guilty on May 29, 2014, and is scheduled for sentencing on Aug. 28, 2014. Under the terms of his plea agreement, he faces a prison sentence within the range of 27 to 33 months. Baltazar Granados, 37, pleaded guilty on June 17, 2014, and is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 18, 2014. Under the terms of his plea agreement, he faces a prison sentence within the range of 70 to 84 months. Ramon Cabrales-Guerra, 23, pleaded guilty on June 23, 2014, and is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 25, 2014. He faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Miramontes-Cruz, Granados and Cabrales-Guerra are Mexican nationals illegally present in the United States and will be deported after completing their prison sentences.
The fourth co-defendant, Ruben Garcia Miranda, 48, an Albuquerque resident, pleaded guilty on June 12, 2014, to using a communications device to facilitate a drug trafficking crime. He is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 11, 2014, and faces a statutory maximum penalty of four years in prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the Court.
Joel Nunez-Haros, 42, and Pablo Arturo Felix-Sicairos, 20, also were arrested in June 2013, and charged in a separate indictment with possession of heroin with intent to distribute. Both men pleaded guilty to the indictment in late June 2014 and are scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 25, 2014. Nunez-Haros faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and Felix-Sicairos faces a prison sentence within the range of 37 to 46 months. Both men are Mexican nationals illegally present in the United States and will be deported after completing their prison sentences.
These cases were investigated by the Albuquerque office of the DEA, the Albuquerque Police Department and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean J. Sullivan and Nicholas J. Ganjei.
The investigation resulting in these cases, which was code-named “Balloon Fiesta” in reference to the multi-colored balloons that heroin often is packaged in for retail distribution, 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.