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EL PASO NEWS

DEA-Led Investigation of Mexican DTO
Results in Charges Against 28
Smuggled Large Quantities of Heroin, Meth, Cocaine from Mexico to US- Drugs: Also Firearms, Money Laundering Charges- Many Arrested, Some Remain Fugitives

APR 28 (ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) – Twenty-eight individuals are facing drug trafficking and money laundering charges as the result of a federal investigation targeting a Mexican drug trafficking organization (DTO) responsible for importing large quantities of heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine from Mexico and distributing the drugs in New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Kentucky and Illinois. 

The charges are the result of a 16-month DEA-led investigation during which law enforcement authorities seized approximately 30 kilograms of heroin, 64 kilograms of methamphetamine, 17 kilograms of cocaine, 20 kilograms of marijuana, 24 firearms, $102,000 in currency, and three vehicles. The investigation concluded this morning with an early morning, multi-agency law enforcement operation which included the execution of arrest warrants in New Mexico and Texas, and the execution of six search warrants at locations in El Paso, Tex., Sunland Park, N.M., Belen, N.M., and Albuquerque, N.M.

Special Agent-in-Charge Will R. Glaspy of DEA’s El Paso Division and Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney announced the results of the investigation this afternoon during a press conference in Las Cruces, N.M.  Representatives of the U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations, New Mexico State Police, Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Department, Las Cruces Police Department and Sunland Park Police Department joined Acting U.S. Attorney Tierney and DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Glaspy in making the announcement.

In announcing the charges, DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Glaspy said: “Today law enforcement in New Mexico and West Texas has dealt a severe blow to a drug trafficking organization with ties to a Mexican drug cartel. Through the cooperation of numerous law enforcement organizations we have removed criminals from our communities who have been involved in smuggling, transporting, and distributing drugs.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Tierney said, “This investigation and its resulting prosecutions are about taking control of our streets.  The charges filed and drugs seized as the result of this investigation demonstrate the success of the collaborative efforts of our federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies to root out drug traffickers operating in New Mexico and throughout the country. Through today’s announcement, the law enforcement community is sending a loud and clear message to those who traffic drugs in our communities that they cannot commit crimes in New Mexico without consequence.”

“The responsibility of protecting our borders and keeping our communities safe is a task to which we are committed.  We are proud to partner with these other fine law enforcement agencies as we work together to protect our citizens and our future from the selfish criminals that look to profit by exploiting our neighborhoods and our children,” said Jeffrey D. Self, Chief Patrol Agent, El Paso Sector.  “This entire investigation is a perfect example of an interdiction that continued into a perfectly executed investigation through a unified effort.”

“The results of this multi-agency operation reflects greatly on the partnership and commitment of dedicated men and women to combat the poisoning of our communities with highly addictive and dangerous drugs,” said Waldemar Rodriguez, Special Agent in Charge of HSI El Paso. “HSI is committed to continue working with our law enforcement partners to enhance public safety in our communities.”

The investigation, which was designated as part of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, targeted a DTO allegedly led by Luis Angel Briseño-Lopez, 30, a Mexican national believed to reside in Juarez, Mexico, and who has yet to be arrested.  The multi-agency investigation revealed that the DTO allegedly imported large quantities of heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine from Mexico into the United States; distributed the drugs in several states; and transported drug proceeds back to Mexico. 

Twenty-three of the 28 defendants are charged in a 44-count indictment, three are charged in two separate criminal complaints, and two will be charged in criminal complaints being filed today.  Twenty-three of the 28 defendants are in custody, including 20 who were arrested during today’s law enforcement operation.

The 44-count indictment, which was filed under seal on April 19, 2017 and unsealed earlier today, alleges that the 23 defendants charged therein participated in a conspiracy to distribute heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine between April 2016 and April 2017.  It also alleges that nine of the defendants also participated in an international money laundering conspiracy during that same period in time.  The indictment also charges certain defendants with engaging in a series of substantive drug trafficking and money laundering offenses, and using communication devices (telephones) to facilitate their criminal activities. It charges one defendant with a firearms offense.

The indictment includes 77 overt acts allegedly committed by the defendants in furtherance of the drug trafficking conspiracy.  The overt acts describe the expansive sweep of the DTO’s drug distribution operation and the significant quantities of drugs involved.  For example, the overt acts allege that the DTO’s drug trafficking and money laundering activities extended to Kentucky, where law enforcement officers seized $15,300 in drug proceeds from a courier who was transporting the money to New Mexico in April 2016; Oklahoma, where law enforcement officers seized 4.44 kilograms of methamphetamine from a courier in June 2016; and New Mexico, where law enforcement officers seized six kilograms of heroin from couriers at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in October 2016.

The indictment also includes forfeiture allegations, which seek to forfeit to the United States the proceeds of the DTO’s drug trafficking and money-laundering activities, including $56,556 seized by the DEA during the investigation.  It also seeks the imposition of a money judgment in the amount of at least $1.4 million, the amount allegedly derived from the crimes charged in the indictment.

One defendant is charged in a criminal complaint with heroin and cocaine trafficking offenses arising out of the seizure of approximately 24.4 pounds of heroin and 2.45 pounds of cocaine at the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 25 north of Las Cruces on March 10, 2017. Two other defendants are charged in a criminal complaint with heroin trafficking offenses arising out of the seizure of approximately 17.8 pounds of heroin by the Hatch Police Department during a traffic stop near Hatch, N.M., on April 20, 2017. 

Two other defendants, who were not previously charged, were arrested during today’s law enforcement operation. They will be charged in criminal complaints to be filed today with drug trafficking and money laundering offenses.

“The citizens of New Mexico are safer today because of the collaborative effort between law enforcement agencies. When law enforcement agencies combine resources and assets, we are able to bring illegal narcotic traffickers to justice,” said Chief Pete Kassetas of the New Mexico State Police.  “These cases are great examples of how local, county, state and federal agencies are working with State District Attorneys and the U.S. Attorney to prosecute those responsible for their crimes. This operation reinforces that there are consequences to those that choose to conspire to illegal narcotics crimes in our communities and state.”

“The Hatch Police Department along with the other agencies involved in today’s operation continue to have a strong relationship,” said Chief James Gimler of the Hatch Police Department. “We are honored to work hand in hand with our federal partners, the DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in achieving the ultimate goal of keeping our streets safe.”

Doña Ana County Sheriff Enrique Vigil said, “I can say with confidence that our local law-enforcement agencies are committed to doing all that we can to bring fugitives to justice, and will continue working together to make our great state of New Mexico a safe place. In doing that, I will continue to pledge every resource available from the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department towards that goal.”

“The Las Cruces Police Department is proud of the working relationship we have with other local and federal law enforcement agencies,” said Chief Jaime Montoya of the Las Cruces Police Department. We rely on each other to help keep our communities safe from those who defy our laws.”

“Through partnerships within our federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, those communities and families affected by criminal activity can rest assured, that at the end of the day, we are all here to Serve and Protect. We want to be a part of making the neighborhoods safe again in order to ensure that our community can roam around freely without worrying about crime a foot,” said Chief Javier Guerra of the Sunland Park Police Department. “In keeping our community safe, I want to enlist their help by asking them to report anything out of the ordinary, suspicious behavior and domestic violence. It is the duty and responsibility of the community to watch-out for each other.”

The Las Cruces and Albuquerque offices of the DEA conducted the investigation with assistance from the U.S. Border Patrol, New Mexico State Police and Hatch Police Department. In addition, the Las Cruces and El Paso offices of Homeland Security Investigations, Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office, Las Cruces Police Department and Sunland Park Police Department participated in today’s law enforcement operation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Selesia L. Winston and Sarah M. Davenport of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office are prosecuting the cases as part of the OCDETF Program and the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative. 

The OCDETF Program 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 HOPE Initiative was launched in January 2015 by the UNM Health Sciences Center and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in response to the national opioid epidemic, which has had a disproportionately devastating impact on New Mexico.  Opioid addiction has taken a toll on public safety, public health and the economic viability of our communities.  Working in partnership with the DEA, the Bernalillo County Opioid Accountability Initiative, Healing Addiction in our Community (HAC), the Albuquerque Public Schools and other community stakeholders, HOPE’s principal goals are to protect our communities from the dangers associated with heroin and opioid painkillers and reducing the number of opioid-related deaths in New Mexico.  The HOPE Initiative is comprised of five components:  (1) prevention and education; (2) treatment; (3) law enforcement; (4) reentry; and (5) strategic planning.  HOPE’s law enforcement component 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 and opioid trafficking organizations for investigation and prosecution is a priority of the HOPE Initiative.  Learn more about the New Mexico HOPE Initiative at http://www.HopeInitiativeNM.org.

Indictment in United States v. Luis Angel Briseño-Lopez, et al., 17-CR-1032-RB

Summary of Charges

Count 1 of the Indictment charges 23 defendants with participating in a conspiracy to distribute heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine.  The statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than ten years nor more than life and a $10 million fine.

Count 2 of the Indictment charges nine defendants with participating in an international money laundering conspiracy.  The maximum statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is 20 years and a $500,000.

Counts 3, 20, 21, 31 and 39 charge certain defendants with substantive international money laundering offenses.  The maximum statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is 20 years and a $500,000.

Counts 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, 22 through 24, 27, 28, 30, 32 and 33 charge certain defendants with using communication facilities to facilitate drug trafficking crimes.  The maximum statutory penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for four years and a $250,000 fine.

Counts 6 and 29 charge certain defendants with possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of a mixture and a substance containing methamphetamine. The statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than ten years or more than life and a $10 million fine.

Count 9 charges a defendant with distributing more than 50 grams of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine. The 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 12 charges a defendant with distributing more than 50 grams of methamphetamine.  The statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than ten years or more than life and a $10 million fine.
  
Counts 14, 25, 35 and 36 charge certain defendants with possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine. The statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than ten years or more than life and a $10 million fine.

Counts 16, 19, 26, 34, 37, 38, 40 and 44 charge certain defendants with possession with intent to distribute more than a kilogram of heroin. The statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than ten years or more than life and a $10 million fine.

Count 41 charges a defendant with carrying and possessing a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime. The statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than five years, which must be served consecutive to any sentence imposed on other counts of conviction.

Count 42 charges a defendant with managing or controlling a residence for storing controlled substances. The maximum penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for 20 years and a $500,000 fine.

Count 43 charges certain defendants with possessing with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine. The 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.

Charges Against Defendants

Luis Angel Briseño-Lopez, 30, a Mexican national believed to reside in Juarez, Mexico, is charged in Counts 1-4, 6, 13-17, 20-21, 23, 25-26, 29, 31-32 and 34-39 of the indictment. Briseño-Lopez has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.

Francisco Luna-Rosales, 50, a legal permanent resident who resides in Albuquerque, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 27, 29, 38 and 40-42 of the indictment. Luna-Rosales has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.

Omar Fernandez, 21, of Albuquerque, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 24 and 28 of the indictment.  Fernandez was arrested this morning in Albuquerque.

Manuel German Ibarra, 32, of Albuquerque, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 2, 22 and 31 of the indictment. Ibarra has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.

Juan R. Gutierrez, 30, of Belen, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 2 and 18-20 of the indictment. Gutierrez was arrested this morning in Belen.

Gustavo Hernandez-Loaiza, 38, of Albuquerque, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 2 and 21 of the indictment. Hernandez-Loaiza was arrested this morning in Albuquerque.

Joshua Jande Carmona, 23 of El Paso, Tex., is charged in Counts 1-3, 5-8, 10-11, 14, 29-31 and 34-35 of the indictment. Carmona was arrested this morning in Arlington, Texas.

Alberto Terrazas-Ignacio, 24, of Albuquerque, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 2, 6, 15-18, 20-28, 32-33 and 44 of the indictment. Terrazas-Ignacio was arrested this morning in Las Cruces.

Jose Manuel Ortiz-Campos, 28, a legal permanent resident residing in El Paso, Tex., is charged in Counts 1- 2 and 36-40 of the indictment. Ortiz-Campos was arrested this morning in El Paso.

Diego Armando Rivas-Aguilar, 23, a Mexican national, is charged in Counts 1 and 33 of the indictment. Rivas-Aguilar is in custody on a federal marijuana trafficking charge in the Western District of Texas and will be transferred to the District of New Mexico to face the charges in the indictment.

Edgar Dominguez-Cuellar, 30, of Sunland Park, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 7-10 and 12-13 of the indictment. Dominguez-Cuellar is in custody on a federal alien smuggling charge in the District of New Mexico.

Rosa M. De Santiago, 43, of Sunland Park, N.M., is charged in Counts 1- 2 and 36-40 of the indictment. De Santiago was arrested this morning in Sunland Park.

Georgina Ramirez, 36, of Anthony, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 36-38 and 43 of the indictment.  Ramirez was arrested this morning in Anthony.

Jesus A. Flores, 39, a legal permanent resident of Anthony, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 38 and 43 of the indictment.  Flores was arrested this morning in Anthony.

Alfonso Rios, 36, of Santa Rosa, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and 11 of the indictment. Rios was arrested in El Paso.

Vanessa Reyes, 26, of El Paso, Tex., is charged in Counts 1-2 and 29-31 of the indictment. Reyes was arrested this morning in Arlington, Tex.

Roderica T. Bahe, 24, of Albuquerque, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and 44 of the indictment. Bahe was arrested this morning in Las Cruces.

Martin J. Contreras, 25, of Rio Rancho, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and 25-26 of the indictment.  Contreras was arrested this morning in Rio Rancho.

Elizabeth Monroy, 19, of Chaparral, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and 36-37 of the indictment.  Monroy was arrested this morning in Chaparral.

Daisy Hidalgo, 22, of Anthony, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and 36-37 of the indictment. Hidalgo has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.

Jazmin Lucia Soto, 19, of Chaparral, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and 36-37 of the indictment. Soto was arrested this morning in Las Cruces.

Ricardo Terrazas-Ignacio, 19, of Las Cruces, N.M., is charged in Count 1 and 16 of the indictment.  Terrazas-Ignacio was arrested this morning in Las Cruces.

Dulce Viridiana Rodriguez, 21, of Albuquerque, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and 38 of the indictment. Rodriguez has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.

Criminal Complaint in United States v. Jose Fernando Lucero, 17-MJ-617-GJF

The criminal complaint charges Jose Fernando Lucero, 24, of Las Cruces, N.M., with conspiracy and possession of heroin and cocaine with intent to distribute.  The charges against Lucero arise out of the seizure of approximately 24.4 pounds (11 kilograms) of heroin and 2.45 pounds (1.1 kilogram) of cocaine by the U.S. Border Patrol on March 10, 2017, during an inspection at the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 25 north of Las Cruces, N.M.  The statutory penalty for a conviction on the charges in the complaint is imprisonment for not less than 10 years nor more than life and a $10 million fine. Lucero was arrested on March 10, 2017, and remains in federal custody pending trial.

Criminal Complaint in United States v. Reyes, et al., 17-MJ-1042-SMV

The criminal complaint charges Maria Isabel Reyes, 37, and Roberta Guillermina Ornelas, 38, both of Horizon City, Texas, with conspiracy and possession of more than a pound of heroin with intent to distribute.  The charges against Reye and Ornelas arise out of the seizure of approximately 17.80 pounds (8.10 kilograms) by the Hatch Police Department near Hatch, N.M., on April 20, 2017.  The statutory penalty for a conviction on the charges in the complaint is imprisonment for not less than ten years nor more than life and a $10 million fine. Reyes and Ornelas were arrested today in Horizon City.

Additional Defendants

Gonzalo Dominguez-Cuellar, 24, of Sunland Park, N.M. was arrested this morning and will be charged by criminal complaint with participating in the drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracies charged in the indictment.

Ivonne Briseno-Lopez, 26, of El Paso, Texas, was arrested this morning and will be charged by criminal complaint with participating in the money laundering conspiracies charged in the indictment.

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

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