U.S. Attorney's Office
District of New Mexico
(505) 346-7274
September 24, 2015

Forty-One Facing Drug Trafficking Charges as a Result of Multi-Agency Investigation in Chaves County

ALBUQUERQUE—Forty-one individuals are facing drug trafficking charges as a result of an eight-month multi-agency investigation led by the FBI, the DEA, Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force, Roswell Police Department, Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, the New Mexico State Police. Twenty-one of the defendants charged are facing federal charges and the remaining 20 are facing state charges.

The results of the investigation were announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Fifth Judicial District Attorney Dianna Luce, Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of DEA’s El Paso Division, New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas, Chaves County Sheriff Britt Snyder and Roswell Police Chief Phil Smith.

The investigation, which was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, initially targeted a drug trafficking organization (DTO) allegedly led by Joseph Ray Mendiola, 34, of Roswell, that allegedly distributed methamphetamine in Chaves County. It later expanded to include drug traffickers who allegedly supplied methamphetamine to the Mendiola DTO and other drug traffickers operating in Chaves County. The OCDETF program 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.

Sixteen of the 21 defendants facing federal charges are charged in a 24-count indictment that was filed by a grand jury on Sept. 22, 2015. The remaining five federal defendants are charged in criminal complaints. Each of the 20 defendants facing state charges is charged by criminal complaint.

During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers executed 14 federal search warrants for 10 residences in Roswell, one residence in Dexter, N.M., and three vehicles. During the execution of those search warrants, the officers seized approximately 5600 grams of methamphetamine, $35,960.00 in cash, and multiple firearms including two assault rifles. Five of the federal defendants, including alleged DTO leader Mendiola, were arrested on July 31, 2015, the date on which the officers executed the 14 federal search warrants.

U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez commended the investigating agencies on the outstanding results of their investigation and said, “The charges filed and drugs seized as a result of this investigation illustrate the success of our District’s federal, state, county and local law enforcement collaboration in rooting out drug traffickers operating in Chaves County and improving the quality of life for people who live there.”

“The months of collaboration of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies led to the arrest of numerous active drug traffickers in Chaves County,” said Fifth Judicial District Attorney Dianna Luce. “The District Attorney’s Office expresses a special thank you to the agents of the New Mexico State Police for their work on this operation.”

“This operation demonstrates how a team of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, working closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, can make a big difference in the communities we serve and protect. Dozens of special agents, state troopers, sheriff’s deputies, police officers, intelligence analysts and other professionals worked together to take some of the worst of the worst drug offenders off our streets,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee. “The FBI and our partners will continue to go after drug-traffickers and others who try to harm our communities, regardless of where these criminals hide or how long it takes.”

“Today’s law enforcement activity in the Roswell area once again makes it abundantly clear that DEA and our law enforcement partners will use all of our investigative tools and resources to keep our smaller communities safe from drug trafficking organizations,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy. “Criminal activity that threatens the safety and well-being of our citizens will not be tolerated.”

‘The citizens of New Mexico are safer today as the result of this cooperative effort between law enforcement agencies,” said New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas. “The cooperation was outstanding and I cannot express my gratitude enough to all the agencies involved. Together, we have made a difference in our state. This operation reinforces to those that choose to break the law, that they will suffer the consequences.”

“Teamwork with our federal, state and local partners is how we got to today,” said Chaves County Sheriff Britt Snyder. “I greatly appreciate that team effort.”

Roswell Police Chief Phil Smith said, “The investigation was a great collaborative effort between the Roswell Police Department and the FBI, successfully removing both drugs and their dealers/pushers from our Roswell community.”

The federal cases were investigated by the Roswell office of FBI’s Albuquerque Division, the Las Cruces office of DEA, Roswell Police Department, Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, the Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force, the New Mexico State Police and the U.S. Marshals Service. The state cases were investigated by the New Mexico State Police In addition to the aforementioned agencies, the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force and Lea County Drug Task Force participated in today’s law enforcement operation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy M. Castellano is prosecuting the federal cases, and the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the state cases.

The HIDTA Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force is comprised of investigators from the Roswell Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI and the Chaves County Sherriff’s Office. 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.

The Pecos Valley Drug Task Force is comprised of officers from the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office, Carlsbad Police Department and Artesia Police Department and is part of the HIDTA Region VI Drug Task Force. 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 NM HIDTA Region VI Drug Task Force.

Indictment in United States v. Mendiola, et al., 15-CR-3386-RB

Summary of the Charges

Count 1 of the Indictment charges 15 of the 16 defendants with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Chaves County between June 2015 and July 2015. For 11 of the federal defendants, the statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than ten years or more than life. For four defendants, the statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is not more than 20 years of imprisonment.

Count 2 charges three defendants with conspiracy to distribute cocaine in Chaves County in July 2015. The statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is not more than 20 years of imprisonment.

Count 3 charges certain defendants with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in Chaves County on July 17, 2015. The statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than five years and not more than 40 years.

Counts 4, 5, 6 and 7 charge certain defendants with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in Chaves County in July 2015. The statutory penalty for a conviction on this count is imprisonment for not less than ten years or more than life.

Counts 8 through 24 charge certain defendants with using communications devices (telephone) to facilitate drug trafficking crimes. The statutory penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is imprisonment for not more than four years.

Charges Against Federal Defendants

  • Joseph Ray Mendiola, 34, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 2, 4, 5 and 10 to 24. Mendiola was arrested on July 31, 2015, on a criminal complaint and has been in federal custody since that time.
  • Francisco Fernando Aguilar-Larios, 34, a Mexican national who illegally resides in Phoenix, Ariz., is charged in Counts 1, 4, 5 and 18. Aguilar-Larios was arrested on July 31, 2015, on a criminal complaint and has been in federal custody since that time.
  • Rodney Boughton, 48, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 6 and 9. Boughton was arrested on July 31, 2015, on a criminal complaint and has been in federal custody since that time.
  • James H. Lewis, 50, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and 6. Lewis was arrested on July 31, 2015, on a criminal complaint and has been in federal custody since that time.
  • Stephanie Leyba, 41, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and 6. Leyba was arrested on July 31, 2015, on a criminal complaint and has been in federal custody since that time.
  • Louis Escobar, 46, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and 11. Escobar has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.
  • Sergio Ureta-Castro, 38, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 7 and 14. Ureta-Castro has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.
  • Jonathan Ureta-Lopez, 19, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 7, 10 and 14. Ureta-Lopez has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.
  • Gerald Sentell, 44, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 3, 8 and 9. Sentell has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.
  • Susana Ceballos, 35, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 4, 12, 13 and 16. Cebollos has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.
  • Ana Solis, 22, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 4, 5, 17 and 23. Solis was arrested during this morning’s law enforcement operation and made her initial appearance earlier today in federal court in Roswell.
  • Destiny Stephenson, 34, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and3. Stephenson was arrested during this morning’s law enforcement operation and made her initial appearance earlier today in federal court in Roswell.
  • Ty Livingston, 36, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 22 and 24. Livingston has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.
  • Ismael Molina, 29, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 2 and 15. Molina was rested during this morning’s law enforcement operation and made his initial appearance earlier today in federal court in Roswell.
  • Cipriano Anaya, 33, of Las Cruces, N.M., is charged in Counts 1 and 21. Anaya was arrested during this morning’s law enforcement operation and made his initial appearance earlier today in federal court in Roswell.
  • Christopher Bernard Larez, 41, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in Counts 1, 2, 19 and 20. Larez has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.

Federal Defendants Charged by Criminal Complaint

The following defendants were arrested during today’s law enforcement operation on federal criminal complaints and made their initial appearances in federal court in Roswell:

Mia Coy Campbell, 32, of Carlsbad, N.M., is charged by criminal complaint 15-MJ-3315 with being a felon in possession of a firearm. If convicted, Campbell faces a statutory maximum penalty of ten years in prison.

James Hill, 33, of Roswell, N.M., is charged by criminal complaint with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. If convicted, Hill faces a statutory penalty of not less than five years and not more than 40 years of imprisonment.

Jason Martinez, 27, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in criminal complaint 15-MJ-3319 with conspiracy and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. If convicted, each faces a statutory penalty of not less than five years and not more than 40 years of imprisonment. His co-defendant Joseph Vallejos, 23, of Roswell, N.M., has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.

Renee Rodriguez, 31, of Roswell, N.M., is charged in criminal complaint 15-MJ-3314 with conspiracy, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and using and carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime. If convicted, she faces a statutory penalty of not less than five years and not more than 40 years of imprisonment on the drug charges and a minimum five years of imprisonment on the firearms charge that must be served consecutive to the sentence imposed on the drug charges. As noted above, co-defendant Joseph Vallejos is a fugitive.

Photographs of the following federal fugitives are attached to this press release: Susana Ceballos, Christopher Larez, Ty Livingston, Gerald Sentell and Joseph Vallejos. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of this/these fugitive(s) is asked to contact the Albuquerque FBI (24 hours) at (505) 889-1300. Tips also can be submitted online at https://tips.fbi.gov.

Charges in indictments and criminal complaints are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

State Defendants Charged by Criminal Complaint

The following defendants were arrested today on state drug trafficking charges:

  • Michael Albarez, 33 of Roswell, N.M.
  • Raymond Amador, 22, of Roswell, N.M.
  • Frederick Bersane, 36, of Roswell, N.M.
  • Aaron Brockman, 27, of Roswell, N.M.
  • Ann Escamilla Cobos, 41 of Roswell, N.M.
  • Lorenzo Cobos, 41, of Roswell, N.M.
  • James Dennis, 25, of Roswell, N.M.
  • Jose Dimas, 27, of Roswell, N.M.
  • Jerry Garcia, 37, of Roswell, N.M.
  • Andres Granado, 27, of Roswell, N.M.
  • Angelo Hidalgo, 22, of Roswell, N.M.
  • Annette Lucero, 44, of Roswell, N.M.
  • Jason Lucero, 37, of Artesia, N.M.
  • Larissa Madril, 23, of Roswell, N.M.
  • Domenic Montes, 25, of Roswell, N.M.
  • Danielle Paslay, 24, of Roswell, N.M.
  • Armando Primera, 46, of Dexter, N.M.
  • Alexander Roberson, 24, of Roswell, N.M.
  • Brandon Dean Shelton, 44, of Roswell, N.M.
  • Jose Trujillo, 25, of Albuquerque, N.M.

Charges in indictments and criminal complaints are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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