Former Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty to Unlawfully Trafficking Suboxone
ALBUQUERQUE—Edward Owens, 21, of Santa Fe, N.M., pleaded guilty today in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to participating in a conspiracy to distribute Buprenorphine, more commonly known as “Suboxone,” in violation of the federal narcotics laws. At the time he committed the crime, Owens was employed as a corrections officer at the Santa Fe County Adult Correctional Facility.
Owens was arrested on Feb. 12, 2015, on an indictment charging him and co-defendant James Barela, 41, of Santa Fe, with conspiracy and possession of Suboxone with intent to distribute. According to the indictment, Owens and Barela committed these crimes between Aug. 6, 2014 and Aug. 12, 2014, in Santa Fe County, N.M.
During today’s proceedings, Owens pled guilty to the indictment and admitted that from Aug. 4, 2014 through Aug. 12, 2014, while he was employed as a corrections officer at the Santa Fe County Adult Correctional Facility, he agreed to bring contraband into the jail for Barela who was an inmate at the facility. Owens admitted that he agreed to smuggle 47 sublingual Suboxone strips into the jail in exchange for payment from Barela, but was apprehended while attempting to do so.
Barela pled guilty to participating in the Suboxone trafficking conspiracy on June 10, 2015, and admitted that from Aug. 4, 2014 through Aug. 12, 2014, while he was incarcerated he conspired with Owens to distribute Suboxone to inmates in the correctional facility. Barela was sentenced on Oct. 8, 2015, to 12 months and one day in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI, the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, and the Santa Fe Corrections Department with assistance from the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaheen P. Torgoley prosecuted the case 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 trafficking organizations for investigation and prosecution is a priority of the HOPE Initiative.