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Federal Indictment Charges Eight with Participating in Taos County Heroin Trafficking and Money Laundering Ring
Defendants prosecuted as part of HOPE initiative which seeks to reduce the number of opioid-related deaths in New Mexico

DEC 21 (ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) – Last week, a federal grand jury indicted eight individuals on heroin trafficking and money laundering charges based on a DEA-led investigation into an organization that allegedly distributed heroin in Taos County, N.M., announced U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez and Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of DEA’s El Paso Division. 

Five of the eight defendants were arrested on Dec. 18, 2015, and made their initial appearances in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., this morning.  Four remain in custody pending arraignment and detention hearings scheduled for tomorrow.  The fifth was released on conditions of release and under pretrial supervision pending trial.  Of the three remaining defendants, one is in state custody on unrelated charges, another has been summoned to appear in federal court on Dec. 23, 2015, and the last has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.

The eight-count indictment is the result of a 15-month investigation targeting a drug trafficking organization allegedly led by Ivan Romero, 39, of El Prado, N.M., that allegedly distributed heroin in Taos County.  The indictment alleges that Ivan Romero and six co-conspirators, including three members of Romero’s family, participated in a heroin and methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy that existed from at least June 2012 and continued until Dec. 2015.  It also alleges that Ivan Romero and three members of his family participated in a money laundering conspiracy to conceal and disguise the nature of their drug trafficking proceeds.  The indictment includes forfeiture provisions that seek to forfeit to the United States any and all property derived, either directly or indirectly, from proceeds obtained from the criminal activity charged in the indictment.

During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers seized more than $378,000, more than 500 grams of heroin and seven kilograms of marijuana.  Additionally, during the arrest operation on Dec. 18, 2015, officers seized more than $70,000, several ounces of heroin, and three firearms and ammunition.

The investigation leading to the indictment was conducted by the Albuquerque office of the DEA, the HIDTA Region III Drug Task Force, New Mexico State Police, Taos Police Department, Taos County Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy S. Vasquez is prosecuting the case as part of the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative.  The HOPE Initiative is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center that is partnering with the Bernalillo County Opioid Accountability Initiative with the overriding goal of reducing the number of opioid-related deaths in the District of New Mexico.  The HOPE Initiative comprised of five components:  (1) prevention and education; (2) treatment; (3) law enforcement; (4) reentry; and (5) strategic planning.  The law enforcement component of the HOPE Initiative 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 trafficking organizations for investigation and prosecution is a priority of the HOPE Initiative.

Indictment in United States v. Ivan Romero, et al., 15-CR-4512

Summary of the Charges

Count 1 of the Indictment charges seven defendants with participating in a heroin and methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy in Taos County and elsewhere in the District of New Mexico from at least June 2012 through Dec. 2015.  The statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than ten years or more than life.

Count 2 charges four defendants with participating in a money laundering conspiracy in Taos County from April 2015 through July 2015.  The maximum statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for 20 years.

Counts 3, 4 and 7 charge certain defendants with distributing heroin in Taos County on   July 7, 2014, April 2015 and June 2015.  The maximum statutory penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for 20 years. 

Count 5 charges Ivan Romero with distributing heroin in Taos Count in April 2015.  The maximum penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than five years or more than 40 years. 

Count 6 charges Ivan Romero with distributing marijuana in Taos County in April 2015.  The statutory maximum penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for five years.
 
Count 8 charges Wilma Romero with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition in Taos County on June 29, 2015.  On that day, Wilma Romero was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because she previously had been convicted of a drug trafficking crime and unlawful possession of a firearm.  The statutory maximum penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for ten years. 

Defendants Charged in Indictment

Ivan Romero, 39, a resident of El Prado, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 2, 5 and 6.  Ivan Romero has been arrested.

Ricco Romero, 28, of El Prado, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and 2.  Ricco Romero, the brother of Ivan Romero, has been arrested.

Wilma Romero, 65, of Arroyo Hondo, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 2, 7 and 8.  Wilma Romero, the mother of Ivan and Ricco Romero, has been arrested. 

Nicholas Baca, 29, of El Prado, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and 4.  Nicholas Baca is in state custody on other charges and will be transferred to federal custody to face the charges in the indictment.

Tyler Baker, 44, of Carson, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and 3.  Tyler Baker has been arrested.

Juanita Romero, 34, of Penasco, N.M., is charged in Count 1.  Juanita Romero has been yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.

Jason Duran, 41, of Albuquerque, N.M., is charged in Count 1.  Jason Duran has been arrested.

Melissa Romero, 28, of El Prado, N.M., is charged in Count 2.  Melissa Romero, is married to Ivan Romero, has been arrested.  Melissa Romero was released on conditions of release under pretrial supervision.

Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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