December 20, 2016
Contact: Lucy Holcomb
Phone Number: (915) 832-6000
Former Pharmacy Technician From Carlsbad Pleads Guilty To Misdemeanor Crime For Unlawful Possession Of Oxycodone
Defendant prosecuted under HOPE Initiative which seeks to reduce opioid-related deaths in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE - Amber Kay Otero, 31, of Carlsbad, N.M., pleaded guilty today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to the misdemeanor offense of unlawfully possessing a controlled substance.
Otero was arrested on Sept. 23, 2016, following an investigation initiated after the DEA received a report of theft or loss of controlled substances from the Southwest Pharmacy located at 2402 West Pierce Street in Carlsbad. According to the criminal complaint, Otero was employed as a pharmacy technician at Southwest Pharmacy and allegedly stole approximately 20,344 oxycodone tablets of various strengths.
During today’s proceedings, Otero pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor information charging her with unlawful possession of a controlled substance. In entering the guilty plea, Otero admitted that from May 2012 through April 2015, she was employed as a pharmacy technician at the Southwest Pharmacy in Eddy County, N.M. She further admitted that on Jan. 15, 2015, she intentionally took oxycodone pills from a bottle at Southwest Pharmacy for her own consumption.
At sentencing, Otero faces a statutory maximum penalty of one year in federal prison. A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.
This case was investigated by the DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squad in El Paso, Texas, and the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force.
DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squads combine DEA resources with those of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in an innovative effort to investigate, disrupt and dismantle those suspected of violating the Controlled Substances Act or other appropriate federal, state or local statutes pertaining to the diversion of licit pharmaceutical controlled substances or listed chemicals.
The Pecos Valley Drug Task Force is comprised of officers from the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office, Carlsbad Police Department and Artesia Police Department and is part of the HIDTA Region VI Drug Task Force. The High Intensity Drug Trafficking (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 (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.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Beck of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office is prosecuting the case as part of the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and (HOPE) Initiative. 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 (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; (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.