Artesia Man Sentenced to Prison for Trafficking Methamphetamine in Lea and Eddy Counties
ALBUQUERQUE—Mario Flores, 28, of Artesia, N.M., was sentenced today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to 63 months in prison followed by four years of supervised release for his methamphetamine trafficking conviction.
Flores was one of five defendants indicted in June 2014, as result of a multi-agency investigation primarily targeting drug traffickers in Lea and Eddy Counties, N.M. The seven-count indictment charged Flores, Leroy Castillo, 33, Joe Padilla, 33, and Rolando Cantu, 39, all residents of Hobbs, N.M., and Anthony Pisana, 29, of Roswell, N.M., with methamphetamine trafficking and conspiracy charges.
Count 1 of the indictment charged all five defendants with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine from Feb. 2014 through May 2014. Counts 2 charged Castillo, Flores and Pisana with possession of methamphetamine and Count 3 charged Cantu with the same crime. Counts 4 through 7 charged the defendants with using communication devices, phones, to facilitate drug trafficking crimes.
Flores was arrested on Aug. 30, 2014, in Carlsbad, N.M. On Oct. 17, 2014, Flores pled guilty to Counts 1 and 2 of the indictment. In entering his guilty plea, Flores admitted that on Mar. 4, 2014, officers found 83 grams of pure methamphetamine hidden in his vehicle during a routine traffic stop in Eddy County. Flores admitted that he was delivering the methamphetamine to another individual when he was stopped.
Pisana was arrested on June 23, 2014, and pled guilty on Sept. 16, 2014, to Count 1 of the indictment. Pisana admitted facilitating a methamphetamine purchase on behalf of a codefendant in Feb. 2014. He further admitted that in June 2014, agents executing a federal search warrant found 967 grams of methamphetamine in his Roswell residence. At sentencing Pisana faces a statutory minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in federal prison and at least four years of supervised release. His sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.
Cantu, who was arrested on July 7, 2014, has entered a not guilty plea to the indictment. He remains in federal custody pending trial which [is currently scheduled for June 2015]. Castillo and Padilla have yet to be arrested and are considered fugitives. Individuals with information regarding the whereabouts of Castillo or Padilla are asked to call the FBI at 505-622-6001. The charges in the indictment against Cantu, Castillo and Padilla are merely accusations and these defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty. If convicted on the charges in the indictment, each defendant faces a mandatory minimum of five years to a maximum of 40 years in prison.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Terri J. Abernathy of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office. The investigation of this case was led by the Las Cruces and Roswell offices of the FBI and Lea County Drug Task Force with assistance from the Las Cruces office of the DEA and New Mexico State Police. The investigation was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) 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 Lea County Drug Task Force is comprised of officers from the Lea County Sheriff’s Office, Hobbs Police Department, Lovington Police Department, Eunice Police Department the Tatum Police Department and the Jal Police Department, and is part of the HIDTA Region VI Drug Task Force. The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (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 Policy (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.