Multi-agency investigation dismantles major drug trafficking organization in southeastern New Mexico
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Ten people are facing federal drug trafficking charges in New Mexico following an 11-month investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Lea County Drug Task Force.
Teams of federal, state, county and local law enforcement officers conducted a major law enforcement operation on Thursday leading to the arrest of five defendants from New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Texas, and the execution of federal search warrants at residences in La Luz and Hobbs, New Mexico. Officers arrested another defendant on Feb. 5, 2019, and two defendants on Feb. 6, 2019. A grand jury previously indicted all of the defendants. During the course of the investigation, law enforcement authorities seized approximately 53 kilograms of methamphetamine, 354 grams of heroin, and 20 firearms.
“The trafficking and abuse of methamphetamine destroys lives,” said Special Agent in Charge Kyle W. Williamson of DEA’s El Paso Division. “Through this investigation, DEA and our federal, state and local law enforcement partners have dismantled an organization responsible for trafficking significant quantities of methamphetamine, other dangerous drugs, and firearms in Hobbs and other communities. With these arrests and seizures, we are sending a strong, unified message that such criminal activity will not be tolerated, and that those who threaten the health and safety of our communities will be brought to justice.”
“This investigation exemplifies the cooperation among law enforcement agencies necessary to combat large-scale drug traffickers in our state,” said U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson. “We are committed to dismantling these criminal organizations from the highest levels down.”
“All agencies involved worked well together and it is shown in the results of the investigation,” said Lea County Drug Task Force Commander Sean Roach. “This case will have a major impact on the methamphetamine trafficking in Lea County. This investigation took many man hours and effort, but in the end, it all pays off to see the impact made in our communities.”
“This operation is proof that when law enforcement agencies work together, anything can be accomplished,” said Lea County Sheriff Corey Helton. “The multiple agencies worked seamlessly to apprehend major players in methamphetamine trafficking in our state. I am proud of all the men and women who worked countless hours on this case.”
The defendants in the case are Luis Batista-Felix, 47, of Phoenix, Ariz.; Edwin Cervantes, 27, of Los Angeles, Calif.; Patricia Chihuahua, 37, of Hobbs, N.M.; Maria Dominguez, 41, of Jal, N.M.; Ricardo Hernandez, 44, of Hobbs, N.M.; Diane Medrano, 43, of La Luz, N.M.; Isaac Miranda, 22, of El Paso, Texas; Abraham Navarrette, 59, of Hobbs, N.M.; Anita Rios, 45, of Lovington, N.M.; and Beatrice Sandoval, 39, of Hobbs, N.M. All of these defendants have been arrested except for Hernandez and Rios.
All of these defendants face charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, including methamphetamine. All defendants, except Dominguez, face a penalty of 10 years to life in prison if convicted of this offense. Dominguez, if convicted, faces a penalty of five to 40 years in prison. Medrano also is charged with engaging in a conspiracy to export firearms to Mexico. Medrano faces a penalty of up to five years in prison if convicted of this offense. Some defendants also face additional charges. Charges in indictments are only accusations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case was investigated by the DEA, Lea County Drug Task Force, Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force, Pecos Valley Drug Task Force, United States Marshals Service, U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Bureau of Indian Affairs, United States Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service, New Mexico State Police, Lea County Sherriff’s Office, and Hobbs Police Department. Other law enforcement agencies also provided assistance, including the Jal Police Department, Eunice Police Department, Lovington Police Department, Carlsbad Police Department and the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office.
These agencies conducted this investigation as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force 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. The U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office is prosecuting the case.
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