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Multi-Agency Investigation Dismantles Marijuana Distribution Ring Operating in Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas
Drug trafficking organization allegedly distributed quantities of marijuana from El Paso, Texas to Roswell, New Mexico and Lubbock, Texas

APR 27 (ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) –Twelve individuals are facing drug trafficking and money laundering charges as the result of a multi-agency investigation targeting marijuana traffickers and money launderers operating in southeastern New Mexico and west Texas.  The investigation culminated this morning when ten of the defendants were arrested during an early morning law enforcement operation led by the DEA.  Teams of federal, state, county and local law enforcement officers participated in the operation that included arrests in five cities and towns in New Mexico and Texas.  The operation also included the execution of federal search warrants at six residences in Texas and one residence in New Mexico.

The results of the investigation were announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the DEA’s El Paso Division, and Dawn Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Office of IRS Criminal Investigation.

The charges against the defendants, which are contained in three separate federal indictments, are the result of an investigation that began in Oct. 2014, and initially targeted a marijuana trafficking organization allegedly led by Rodolfo Lopez, 31, of El Paso, Texas, that allegedly transported marijuana from El Paso to Chaves County, N.M., and Lubbock, Texas.  The investigation expanded to include two smaller drug trafficking organizations that allegedly transported marijuana to Lubbock, Texas, through Chaves County and Eddy County, N.M.  The investigation was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, 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.

During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers seized approximately 75 pounds of marijuana and $22,166.00 in cash.  In addition, during today’s arrest operation, law enforcement officers seized approximately 40 pounds of marijuana, approximately $70,000 in cash, 14 vehicles, including a motorcycle and an ATV, and 16 firearms, including one reported stolen.

“Today’s arrests in El Paso and Lubbock, Texas, as well as Roswell, New Mexico are another excellent example of the ongoing collaboration between DEA and our federal, state and local law enforcement partners,” said Will R. Glaspy.  “Criminal organizations should reconsider whether they can conduct their illegal activities undetected in our southern New Mexico and West Texas communities.  The law enforcement community is committed to rooting out and dismantling these organizations so that they are no longer free to spread its poison in our neighborhoods.”

U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez said, “The indictments announced today should serve as a reminder that marijuana is a dangerous drug and the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime.  The Justice Department continues to enforce the drug trafficking laws particularly when illegal marijuana trafficking provides a significant source of revenue for drug trafficking organizations.”

“It takes a lot of hard work, cooperation, and coordination to take down a multi-state drug trafficking organization with each agency contributing its own valuable knowledge and skills to the investigation” said Dawn Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Office of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.

Ten of the alleged members of the marijuana importation and distribution ring are charged in a 42 count indictment that alleges drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracies and a series of drug and money laundering substantive offenses.  Count 1 of the indictment alleges that from Nov. 2014 through April 2015, all ten defendants participated in a marijuana trafficking conspiracy pursuant to which they distributed in excess of 100 kilograms of marijuana in Chaves County and other places.  Count 2 charges six defendants with participating in a conspiracy to launder the proceeds of their alleged marijuana trafficking activities.  Counts 3 and 4 of the indictment allege that certain defendants maintained premises in Roswell, N.M., for the purpose of storing marijuana.  Three defendants are charged with using a communications facility, telephones, to further the commission of drug trafficking crimes.  Twenty-six counts charge certain defendants with drug trafficking crimes and two counts charge certain defendants with money laundering.

Five defendants, including two charged in the ten-defendant indictment, are charged in a separate indictment with participating in a separate marijuana trafficking conspiracy.  The indictment alleges that between March 1, 2015 and March 24, 2015, the four defendants conspired to commit a marijuana trafficking crime in Chaves County.  It also charges the four defendants with possessing marijuana in Eddy County on March 23, 2015, with the intention of distributing it to others.

A third indictment charges three defendants, including one charged in the ten-defendant indictment, with conspiracy to commit a marijuana trafficking crime in Eddy County between Feb. 12, 2015 and Feb. 26, 2015.  Two of the defendants are also charged with possession of marijuana in Eddy County on Feb. 26, 2015, with the intention of distributing it to others.

These cases are the result of an investigation by the Las Cruces offices of the DEA and IRS Criminal Investigation, the Hatch Police Department, the Sunland Police Department, the Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force, the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force, the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office.  The El Paso office of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas and the Lubbock office of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas assisted in the investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah M. Davenport of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office is prosecuting these cases. 

The following additional law enforcement agencies participated in today’s law enforcement operation:  the El Paso Division of the DEA, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Roswell Police Department, and the Lubbock Police Department.

The Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force is comprised of officers and investigators from the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office and the Roswell Police Department, and the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force is comprised of officers and investigators from the Artesia Police Department, Carlsbad Police Department, Eddy County Sheriff’s Office, FBI, HSI, the Probation and Parole Division of the New Mexico Corrections Department and the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.  Both Task Forces are part of the New Mexico HIDTA Region VI Drug Task Force.  The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program was created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.  HIDTA is a program of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) which provides assistance to federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States and seeks to reduce drug trafficking and production by facilitating coordinated law enforcement activities and information sharing.

Indictment in United States v. Lopez, et al., 15-CR-1415-RB

Summary of the Charges

            Count 1 of the Indictment charges all ten defendants with conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute.  The statutory maximum penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than five years or more than 40 years and a $5 million fine.

            Count 2 charges six defendants with conspiracy to launder money.  The statutory maximum penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not more than 20 years and a $250,000 fine.

            Counts 3 and 4 charge certain defendants with managing or controlling a residence for the purpose of storing a controlled substance.  The statutory maximum penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for not more than 20 years and a $500,000 fine.

            Counts 5, 9, 10, 12, 16, 17, 20, 24, 29 and 35 charge certain defendants with using a communications device (telephone) to facilitate a drug trafficking crime.  The statutory maximum penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for not more than four years and a $250,000 fine.

            Counts 6, 8, 11, 13, 15, 18, 21, 23, 25, 27, 28, 30, 32-34, 36, 38, 39 and 41 charge certain defendants with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.  The statutory maximum penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for not more than five years and a $250,000 fine.

            Counts 7, 14, 22, 26, 31, 37 and 40 charge certain defendants with distribution of marijuana.    The statutory maximum penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for not more than five years and a $250,000 fine.

            Counts 19 and 42 charge certain defendants with money laundering.  The statutory maximum penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for not more than 20 years and a $250,000 fine.

Charges Against Defendants

            Rodolfo Lopez, 31, of El Paso, Texas, is charged in Count 1 of the indictment.   Lopez has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.

            Mayra Elizabeth Martinez-Giron, 24, of El Paso, Texas, is charged in Count 1 of the indictment.  Martinez-Giron was arrested in El Paso.

            Christian Hugo Contreras, 32, of El Paso, Texas, is charged in Counts 1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 20, 21, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 34, 35, 36, 39 and 42 of the indictment.  Contreras was arrested in El Paso.  Contreras also is charged in the indictment filed in United States v. Lopez-Tellez, et al., 15-CR-1417-RB.

            Jesus Noe Lopez-Tellez, 34, of Wolfforth, Texas, is charged in Counts 1, 2, 3 and 19 of the indictment.  Contreras was arrested in El Paso.  Lopez-Tellez also is charged in the indictments filed in United States v. Lopez-Tellez, et al., 15-CR-1416-RB and United States v. Lopez-Tellez, et al., 15-CR-1417-RB.

            Hugo Alejandro Lopez-Tellez, 27, of Roswell, N.M., Texas, is charged in Counts 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 20, 22, 24, 26, 29, 31, 35, 37, 40 and 42 of the indictment.  Lopez-Tellez was arrested in Roswell.

            Andrew Ocanas Garza, 37, of Lubbock, Texas, is charged in Count 1 of the indictment.  Garza was arrested in Lubbock.  Garza also is charged in the indictment filed in United States v. Lopez-Tellez, et al., 15-CR-1416-RB.

            Douglas K. Mayes, 52, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 27, 32, 38, 41 and 42 of the indictment.  Mayes was arrested in Roswell.

            Claudia Berenice Hernandez, 33, of El Paso, Texas, is charged in Counts 1, 2, 6, 11, 13, 18, 19, 21, 25, 28, 30, 34, 36, 39 and 42 of the indictment.  Hernandez was arrested in El Paso.  Hernandez also is charged in the indictment filed in United States v. Lopez-Tellez, et al., 15-CR-1417-RB.

            Omar Ortiz, 44, of El Paso, Texas, is charged in Counts 1, 2, 6, 11, 13, 18, 19, 21, 25, 28, 30, 34, 36, 39 and 42 of the indictment.  Ortiz was arrested in El Paso.  Ortiz also is charged in the indictment filed in United States v. Lopez-Tellez, et al., 15-CR-1417-RB.

            Arthur Luna, 46, of Roswell, N.M., Texas, is charged in Counts 1 and 33 of the indictment.  Lopez-Tellez was arrested in Roswell.

Indictment in United States v. Lopez-Tellez, et al., 15-CR-1416
Charges and Defendants

            Count 1 of the indictment charges all three defendants with conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute, and Count 2charges two of the defendants with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.  The maximum penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for not more than five years and a $250,000 fine.

            Jesus Noe Lopez-Tellez, 34, of Wolfforth, Texas, is charged in both counts of the indictment.  Lopez-Tellez was arrested in Wolfforth.  Lopez-Tellez also is charged in the indictments filed in United States v. Lopez-Tellez, 15-CR-1415-RB, and United States v. Lopez-Tellez et al., 15-CR-1417-RB.

            Andrew Ocanas Garza, 37, of Lubbock, Texas, is charged in Count 1of the indictment.  Garza was arrested in Lubbock.  Garza also is charged in the indictment filed in United States v. Lopez et al., 15-CR-1415-RB.

            Antonio Arreola-Herrera, 31, of El Paso, Texas, is charged in both counts of the indictment.  Arreola-Herrera was arrested in El Paso.
           
Indictment in United States v. Lopez-Tellez, et al., 15-CR-1417
Charges and Defendants

            Counts 1 and 2 of the indictment charge all four defendants with conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.  The maximum penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for not more than five years and a $250,000 fine.

            Emmanuel Lopez-Tellez, 31, a Mexican citizen residing in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.

            Jesus Noe Lopez-Tellez, 34, of Wolfforth, Texas, was arrested in Wolfforth.  Lopez-Tellez also is charged in the indictments filed in United States v. Lopez, et al., 15-CR-1415-RB, and United States v. Lopez-Tellez et al., 15-CR-1416-RB.

            Christian Hugo Contreras, 32, of El Paso, Texas, was arrested in El Paso.  Contreras also is charged in the indictment filed in United States v. Lopez, et al., 15-CR-1415-RB.

            Omar Ortiz, 44, of El Paso, Texas, was arrested in El Paso.  Ortiz also is charged in the indictment filed in United States v. Lopez, et al., 15-CR-1415.

Charges in indictments are only accusations.  All criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of either of the fugitives, Rodolfo Lopez or Emmanuel Lopez-Tellez is asked to call the DEA at 575-526-0700.


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