Fugitive in Federal Pharmacy Robbery Case Arrested
ALBUQUERQUE—On April 29, 2015, federal and local officials announced the filing of four indictments alleging that six defendants robbed retail pharmacies in Albuquerque, N.M., to illegally obtain Oxycodone and other highly addictive opioid painkillers. At the time, three of the defendants were fugitives. The last of the three fugitives, Blake Gallardo, 22, of Albuquerque, N.M., was arrested last night. Gallardo made his initial appearance in federal court this morning on Indictment 15-CR-1504-JB, charging him and a co-defendant.
The four indictments announced on April 29, 2015, charged Gallardo and the following five Albuquerque residents with crimes arising out of the armed robberies of retail pharmacies: Roy Christopher, 28, Valentin Garcia, 22, Victor Hurtado, 20, and Joseph Montano, 22. At the time, Duran, Gallardo and Garcia had not been arrested and were considered fugitives. Since then, Garcia was arrested on May 21, 2015, and Duran was arrested the next day.
The indictments allege violations of the Controlled Substance Registrant Protection Act and the Safe Doses Act, laws passed to address the theft and diversion of prescription drugs. 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 creates 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.
Indictment 15-CR-1504 charges Gallardo and Duran with (1) violating the Hobbs Act by interfering with interstate commerce by robbery and violence; (2) brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence; (3) violating the Controlled Substance Registrant Act by robbery involving controlled substance; (4) violating the Safe Doses Act by theft of medical products; and (5) possession of Oxycodone with intent to distribute. The charges against Gallardo and Duran arise out of the armed robbery of a Walgreens Pharmacy on Jan. 30, 2015.
Hurtado, Montano and Garcia are separately charged in two indictments with the same five crimes as Gallardo and Duran. Hurtado and Montano are charged in Indictment 15-CR-1506-JB, based on the armed robbery of a Smith’s Pharmacy on Jan. 6, 2015, and Garcia is charged in Indictment 15-CR-1505-JB, based on the armed robbery of a Walgreens Pharmacy on Jan. 6, 2015.
Christopher is charged in Indictment 15-CR-1504-JB, with (1) violating the Hobbs Act by interfering with interstate commerce by robbery and violence; (2) violating the Safe Doses Act by theft of medical products; and (3) possession of Oxycodone with intent to distribute. The charges against Christopher arise out of the robbery of a CVS Pharmacy on Aug. 14, 2014. The charges in the indictments carry the following statutory maximum penalties on conviction: Hobbs Act—20 years of imprisonment; robbery of controlled substances—25 years of imprisonment; Safe Doses Act—30 years of imprisonment; possession of Oxycodone with intent to distribute—20 years in prison. The statutory maximum penalty for a conviction for brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence is a mandatory seven years in prison to be served consecutive to any prison sentence on the other sentence imposed on the other charges.
The defendants have entered not guilty pleas to the charges against them. They remain in federal custody 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.