December 15, 2015

Albuquerque Man Sentenced to 15 Years for Federal Conviction Arising from Armed Robberies of Two Retail Pharmacies in January and June 2015

ALBUQUERQUE—Blake Gallardo, 23, of Albuquerque, N.M., was sentenced today in federal court to 15 years in prison for his conviction on narcotics trafficking and firearms charges arising out of the armed robberies of two Albuquerque-area retail pharmacies in Jan. 2015 and June 2015. Gallardo 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.

“Gallardo was prosecuted as part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets the ‘worst of the worst’ repeat and violent offenders for federal prosecution, said U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez. Court records show that, before committing the two violent armed robberies he was sentenced for today, Gallardo had a demonstrated history of violence dating back to his teenage years. In 2007, Gallardo was convicted of battery on school personnel, and in 2010, he was convicted of robbery and aggravated battery after violently robbing and injuring the victim. Also in 2010, Gallardo was convicted of conspiracy to commit commercial burglary for conspiring with others to rob a convenience store after disabling its surveillance system, and of multiple counts of commercial robberies after stealing a television and computers from two elementary schools. In 2014, Gallardo was convicted of disorderly conduct and harassment after trying to provoke a fight at his former place of employment. As evidenced by the crimes of conviction in this case, the level of Gallardo’s violence escalated in 2015, to brandishing firearms at pharmacists, placing them and other innocent by-standers at risk.

Gallardo was one of six defendants 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.

Gallardo and his co-defendant and girlfriend Josephine Duran, 23, of Albuquerque, were 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 Walgreens Pharmacy located at 6565 Paradise Blvd. NW in Albuquerque on Jan. 30, 2015.

On Sept. 4, 2015, Gallardo entered a guilty plea to three counts of the indictment. He also pled guilty to a felony information charging him with theft of medical products arising out of the armed robbery of another pharmacy, the Walgreens Pharmacy located at 1201 Unser Blvd. NW in Albuquerque, on June 6, 2015. In his plea agreement, Gallardo admitted robbing both Walgreens Pharmacies at gunpoint.

With respect to the Jan. 30, 2015 robbery, Gallardo entered the pharmacy, jumped over the pharmacy counter while brandishing a firearm, and ordered the pharmacist to open a locker in which controlled substances were stored. Gallardo pointed his firearm at the pharmacist, took her keys, opened the locker, and filled a bag with oxycodone. Gallardo and co-defendant Duran were arrested on state charges shortly after the robbery.

With respect to the June 6, 2015 robbery, Gallardo’s plea agreement states that Gallardo was armed with a firearm when he entered the pharmacy and jumped over the pharmacy counter. He grabbed two pharmacy employees and directed them to the pharmacy’s controlled substance locker. Gallardo took several bottles of oxycodone from the locker and ran out of the pharmacy.

Duran, Gallardo’s co-defendant and girlfriend, 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.

With respect to the four defendants who are charged in three other pharmacy robbery cases, one has been sentenced, two have entered guilty pleas and are detained pending sentencing, and the fourth 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 three years of supervised release.
  • 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.
  • On Sept. 17, 2015, Valentin Garcia, 23, pled guilty to felony charges arising out of the Jan. 30, 2015, armed robbery of the CVS Pharmacy located at 4201 Montano in Albuquerque. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Garcia will be sentenced to ten years in federal prison. Garcia remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing currently scheduled for Dec. 17, 2015.
  • 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.