NOV 12 (ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) – Lonnie Dean, 48, of Belen, N.M., was sentenced this afternoon to 20 years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release for his conviction on methamphetamine trafficking and assault on a federal officer charges. Dean’s sentence was announced by Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit of the El Paso Division of the DEA, Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough, and Chief Roy E. Melnick of the Los Lunas Police Department.
Dean was one of twelve individuals from Valencia and Socorro Counties charged with federal methamphetamine trafficking charges in May and June 2011, following a 16-month investigation led by the DEA and the Los Lunas Police Department. The investigation, code-named “Vanilla Sky,” was pursued under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, a nationwide initiative that combines the resources and unique expertise of federal agencies, along with their local counterparts, in a coordinated attack against major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.
According to court filings, Dean was part of a large scale methamphetamine trafficking organization that operated in Valencia County. Between March 2010 and May 2011, members of the organization conspired to sell ounce quantities of methamphetamine to undercover DEA agents on at least ten separate occasions. They sold more than a pound of methamphetamine to the undercover DEA agents during a 14-month period.
On April 2, 2013, Dean pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and assaulting a federal officer with a dangerous weapon. In entering his guilty plea, Dean admitted conspiring with others to distribute methamphetamine in Los Lunas and Belen, and assaulting a federal officer as he attempted to avoid arrest.
More specifically, Dean admitted that on May 26, 2011, he drove to a gas station in Belen for the purpose of selling methamphetamine to another person. As Dean was talking to his customer, DEA agents approached Dean and attempted to arrest him. One DEA agent, who had blocked Dean’s car from the front, exited his car and was moving on foot to a better tactical position with his gun and badge drawn, while another DEA agent parked his vehicle behind Dean’s car to block Dean in. Dean admitted that, instead of surrendering, he put his car into reverse and hit the DEA agent’s car causing it to go backward. Dean then put his car into drive and drove forward, missing the DEA agent only because the agent jumped to the side to avoid being struck. Less than a minute later, Dean drove into a road and entered an intersection where he struck a car driven by Roberta Torres, a 40-year-old resident of Belen, who died as a result of the injuries she sustained in the crash.
Dean faces several state charges, including a vehicular homicide charge, relating to Ms. Torres’ death in the 13th Judicial District Court for the State of New Mexico. Dean has entered a not guilty plea to the state charges.
Seven other defendants have entered guilty pleas in federal cases filed as a result of Operation Vanilla Sky. Three defendants have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled for trial on Nov. 18, 2013. The remaining defendant, Arturo Acosta-Astorga, has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive. The charges against the defendants pending trial and the fugitive are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was investigated by the DEA and the Los Lunas Police Department and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicholas J. Ganjei and Joel R. Meyers.