Seventeen Charged and Twelve Arrested in Joint Enforcement Operation in Carlsbad, New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Today, Alexander M.M. Uballez, United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, Eric Castañeda, Acting Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration El Paso Division, and Francisco B. Burrola, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations El Paso, and Jeffrey C. Boshek II, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, announced seven indictments returned by a federal grand jury on April 19 and July 19, 2023, one criminal complaint issued on August 1, 2023, and the arrest of 12 alleged drug and firearms traffickers on August 1, 2023, in a coordinated, multiagency enforcement operation in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
According to the indictments and other court records, in February of 2022, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force (PVDTF) received information regarding individuals who were trafficking drugs in southeastern New Mexico. Through diligent and painstaking investigation, agents identified a drug trafficking organization operating out of Eddy County, New Mexico that was distributing methamphetamine, cocaine, and fentanyl in Carlsbad. As a result of the year-long investigation, a federal grand jury issued indictments against 16 defendants for drug and firearms trafficking charges.
Jesus Daniel Sonora-Gonzalez, 29, of Carlsbad, Guerrero Muro, 33, of Midland, Texas, and Marco Antonio Torres-Vivas, 40, of Carlsbad were charged on April 19 with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances including 50 grams and more of methamphetamine and 500 grams and more of fentanyl, nine counts of distribution of fentanyl and methamphetamine, and one count of attempt to distribute 400 grams and more of fentanyl. If convicted, both men face up to life in prison.
Damon Michael Johnsey, 28, and Kelly Lamar Burke, 31, both of Carlsbad, were charged under separate indictments on July 19 with possession with intent to distribute 40 grams and more of fentanyl, using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime and being a felon in possession a firearm and ammunition. Johnsey was previously convicted of possession a controlled substance. Burke was previously convicted of abuse of child and possession of a controlled substance. If convicted, both men face up to life in prison.
Kinny Gonzalez, 29, his sister Kassandra Lee Perales, 32, her boyfriend Carlos Michael Venegas, Jr., 24, Amber Kathleen Owen, 50, Brian Kain Purdy aka “Guero,” 41, Sabino Alfonso Maldonado aka “Flaco,” 31, Jared Michael Moore aka “Ghost,” 42, all of Carlsbad, and Jesus Alonso Cerezo-Espidio aka “Pitufo,” 50, of Mexico, were charged on July 19 with conspiracy to distribute cocaine; possession with intent to distribute cocaine, 400 grams and more of fentanyl, 50 grams and more of methamphetamine, and 5 grams and more of methamphetamine; distribution of 400 grams and more of fentanyl and 50 grams and more of methamphetamine, smuggling goods from the United States and conspiracy thereto; attempt to smuggle a firearm and ammunition out of the United States to promote a drug trafficking crimes; attempt to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams and more of methamphetamine and 500 grams and more of cocaine; and using and carrying a firearm during and relation to a drug trafficking crime. If convicted, Gonzalez, Perales, Venegas, Owen, and Cerezo-Espidio face up to life in prison. If convicted, Moore faces up to 20 years in prison. If convicted, Purdy and Maldonado each face up to 10 years in prison.
Manuel Pineda Montoya, 43, of Carlsbad, was charged on July 19 with possession with intent to distribute 400 grams and more of fentanyl, 50 grams and more of methamphetamine, and 40 grams and more of fentanyl; using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime; and being a felon in possession a firearm and ammunition. If convicted, Montoya faces up to life in prison.
Silvester Cruz Rueda II, 44, and Jaycelyn Amberly Marrujo, 22, both of Carlsbad, were charged on July 19 with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl as well as possession with the intent to distribute fentanyl. Rueda II also was charged with using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. In convicted, Rueda II faces up to life in prison, and Marrujo faces up to 20 years in prison.
David Kirk Haynes, 55, was charged on July 19 with possession with intent to distribute 400 grams and more of fentanyl. If convicted, Haynes faces up to life in prison. Haynes is a fugitive and has not yet been arrested.
Gonzalez, Owen, Purdy, Maldonado, Moore, Rueda II, Marrujo, Johnsey, and Burke were arrested in Carlsbad on August 1, 2023. Perales and Venegas, Jr. were arrested on August 1, 2023, in North Dakota.
Freddie Trevino, 48, was arrested in Carlsbad on August 1, 2023, and charged by criminal complaint with possession with intent to distribute 50 grams and more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. If convicted, Trevino faces up to life in prison.
During the arrests on August 1, 2023, agents executed four search warrants in Carlsbad and seized methamphetamine, cocaine, firearms, and money. To date, agents have seized approximately 56 kilograms of methamphetamine, four kilograms of cocaine, four kilograms of fentanyl, 31 firearms, and $75,000 from the drug trafficking organization.
“This is a violent organization with links to cartel activity,” said Eric Castañeda, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s El Paso Division. “Make no mistake. DEA will continue to aggressively pursue this and other organizations responsible for bringing these dangerous drugs into the communities of southern New Mexico.”
“No corner of New Mexico is beyond the reach of federal criminal investigators. Through strong partnerships with local law enforcement, we struck at the heart of this drug trafficking network, disrupting its operations from the source to the streets,” said U.S. Attorney Uballez. “But our mission does not end here. We remain vigilant throughout New Mexico to investigate and prosecute drug distribution networks flooding our streets with poison.”
“Organized crime has no place in our country or our communities, especially organizations that poison our citizens with their dangerous drugs and illicit activities,” said Francisco B. Burrola, special agent in charge for HSI El Paso. “These arrests exemplify HSI’s commitment to collaborate with our law enforcement partners to dismantle international criminal organizations one by one.”
“ATF remains committed to protecting the citizens of New Mexico from the scourge of violent firearm offenders. Armed drug trafficking organizations are at the heart of many of the violent acts occurring around us every day. We are proud of the hard work shown here by our partners to put some of the worst of the worst behind bars” stated ATF Dallas Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey C. Boshek II.
“These types of operations have a powerful and lasting impact on our communities. Strong partnerships between federal and local law enforcement make our towns safer and a better place to live. The Eddy County Sheriff’s Office will always stand ready to do our part!”
This investigation was conducted as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force led the investigation, with enforcement assistance from the United States Marshal Service, Carlsbad Police Department, Eddy County Sheriff’ Department, Roswell Police Department, Chaves County Drug Task Force, DEA Airwing and Customs and Border Patrol. The New Mexico Air National Guard’s Air Unit, Artesia Police Department and Customs and Border Patrol’s Air Unit also provided support in this matter.
The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Renee L. Camacho and Devon Aragon-Martinez.
The charges contained in an indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.