Albuquerque Man Sentenced to 10 Years for Federal Conviction Arising Out of Armed Robbery of Retail Pharmacy in January 2015
ALBUQUERQUE—Valentin Garcia, 23, of Albuquerque, N.M., was sentenced today in federal court to ten years in prison for his conviction on narcotics trafficking and firearms charges arising out of the armed robbery of an Albuquerque-area retail pharmacy in Jan. 2015. Garcia will be on supervised release for three years after completing his prison sentence.
The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Kari E. Brandenburg, Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the DEA’s El Paso Division, Chief Gorden Eden, Jr., of the Albuquerque Police Department, and Chief Pete N. Kassetas of the New Mexico State Police.
Garcia was one of six Albuquerque residents charged in four indictments that were announced by federal and local officials on April 29, 2015. According to the indictments, the six defendants robbed retail pharmacies in Albuquerque to illegally obtain Oxycodone and other highly addictive opioid painkillers.
Garcia was charged with violating the Hobbs Act by interfering with interstate commerce by robbery and violence; brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence; violating the Controlled Substance Registrant Act by robbery involving controlled substance; violating the Safe Doses Act by theft of medical products; and possession of Oxycodone with intent to distribute. These charges arose out of the armed robbery of a CVS Pharmacy located at 4201 Montano NW in Albuquerque on Jan. 30, 2015.
On Sept. 17, 2015, Garcia pled guilty to three counts of the indictment and admitted violating the Hobbs Act, brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, and theft of medical products. In his plea agreement, Garcia admitted that on Jan. 30, 2015, he and an accomplice robbed a CVS Pharmacy by jumping over the pharmacy counter and demanding oxycodone from the pharmacist. Garcia admitted pointing a gun at the pharmacist to gain his compliance. To date, Garcia’s accomplice has not been identified.
With respect to the five defendants who are charged in three other pharmacy robbery cases, two have been sentenced, two have entered guilty pleas and are detained pending sentencing, and the fifth has entered a not guilty plea:
- On July 1, 2015, Victor Hurtado, 20, pled guilty to felony charges arising out of the Jan.6, 2015 armed robbery of the Smith’s Pharmacy located at 4016 Louisiana Blvd. NE in Albuquerque. Hurtado was sentenced on Dec. 10, 2015, to 141 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release.
- On Sept. 4, 2015, Blake Gallardo, 23, pled guilty to felony charges arising out of the Jan. 30, 2015, armed robbery of the Walgreens Pharmacy located at 6565 Paradise Blvd. NW and the June 6, 2015, armed robbery of the Walgreens Pharmacy located at 1201 Unser Blvd. NW. Gallardo was sentenced on Dec. 15, 2015, to 15 years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.
- Josephine Duran, 23, pled guilty on Sept. 24, 2015, to prescription drug trafficking and theft of medical products charges arising out of the armed robbery of the Walgreens Pharmacy in Jan. 2015. Under the terms of her plea agreement, Duran will be sentenced to a prison term within the range of 48 to 100 months. She remains in custody pending her sentencing hearing which is currently scheduled for Jan. 6, 2016.
- On Nov. 17, 2015, Roy Christopher, 28, pled guilty to felony charges arising out of the robbery of an Albuquerque-area CVS pharmacy in Aug. 2014. Christopher remains in custody pending his sentencing hearing which is currently scheduled for Feb. 17, 2016.
- Joseph Montano, 23, has entered a not guilty plea and is pending trial. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
These cases were investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI, the Tactical Diversion Squad of the DEA in Albuquerque, and the Albuquerque Police Department, with assistance from the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Bernalillo County. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joel R. Meyers and Shaheen P. Torgoley.
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.
These cases are being prosecuted pursuant to a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution. Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.
The cases also are being prosecuted pursuant to 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 and opioid trafficking organizations for investigation and prosecution is a priority of the HOPE Initiative.
The Controlled Substance Registrant Protection Act was enacted in 1984, to combat the theft of prescription drugs from individuals and businesses registered with the DEA. It created penalties for entering a pharmacy’s premises for the purpose of stealing controlled substances, and includes enhanced punishment for using a dangerous weapon. The Safe Doses Act was enacted in Oct. 2012, to fight medical theft and protect patients from unknowingly using stolen and mishandled drugs. It provides for enhanced sentences for those who rob pharmacies of controlled substances; individuals who steal medical products; and “fences” who knowingly obtain stolen medical products for resale in the supply chain.