Colfax County Sheriff’s Deputy Arrested on Federal Narcotics Charge
ALBUQUERQUE—U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, and Chief Pete N. Kassetas of the New Mexico State Police (NMSP) announced today that Vidal Sandoval, 45, a Deputy of the Colfax County Sheriff’s Office who resides in Cimarron, N.M., has been indicted for aiding and abetting a drug trafficking crime. Sandoval made his initial appearance on the indictment in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., this afternoon, and was remanded into federal custody pending an arraignment and detention hearing which is scheduled for Monday, March 16, 2015.
Sandoval is charged in an indictment that was filed under seal on March 10, 2015, and was unsealed earlier today after he was arrested by the FBI and NMSP. The indictment alleges that on Feb. 28, 2015, Sandoval aided and abetted an attempt to possess cocaine with intent to distribute in Colfax County, N.M. The indictment includes forfeiture provisions seeking a money judgment in the amount of at least $19,500.00, the proceeds Sandoval allegedly obtained as a result of his unlawful conduct.
According to affidavits submitted in support of court-approved search warrants that were executed following Sandoval’s arrest, the investigation into Sandoval began in summer 2014, after two men reported to the NMSP that a law enforcement officer allegedly seized marijuana and cash from them during a traffic stop without giving them a receipt for the marijuana or money. Investigation by the NMSP identified Sandoval as the officer allegedly involved in the traffic stop.
The affidavits allege that from Dec. 2014 through Feb. 2015, the FBI and NMSP deployed undercover agents into areas of Colfax County that Sandoval was known to patrol. During that time, Sandoval allegedly conducted traffic stops on the undercover agents’ vehicles on three occasions during which he allegedly offered to escort the undercover agents through Colfax County with drugs and currency in exchange for a portion of their drug profits. In Feb. 2015, Sandoval allegedly agreed to escort an undercover agent with a load of drugs through Colfax County. On Feb. 28, 2015, Sandoval allegedly accepted cash for escorting the undercover agent, who was driving a vehicle containing cocaine, from Colfax County to the New Mexico/Colorado border.
If convicted of the offense charged in the indictment, Sandoval faces a mandatory minimum five years and a maximum of 40 years in federal prison. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was investigated by the Santa Fe and Albuquerque offices of the FBI and the New Mexico State Police, and the Colfax County Sheriff’s Office is cooperating in the ongoing investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean J. Sullivan is prosecuting the case.