Las Cruces Resident Pleads Guilty to Federal Narcotics Trafficking Charges
ALBUQUERQUE—Christopher J. Cleveland, 35, a resident of Las Cruces, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court to methamphetamine trafficking charges under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Cleveland and co-defendant Eric G. Acosta, 28, also of Las Cruces, were arrested in July 2014, on a criminal complaint charging them with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, using a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The complaint alleged that during a routine traffic stop on June 23, 2014, officers of the Las Cruces Police Department discovered approximately 889.2 grams of methamphetamine, a firearm and drug paraphernalia inside a vehicle driven by Acosta and in which Cleveland was a passenger. It further alleged that Cleveland and Acosta had traveled from Arizona, where they obtained the methamphetamine, to Las Cruces in Doña Ana County, N.M., where they intended to distribute the drugs.
An indictment subsequently was filed on Oct. 16, 2014, charging Acosta and Cleveland with a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. The indictment also charged each of the two men with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The two men were charged with committing these crimes on June 23, 2014, in Doña Ana County. At the time, Acosta and Cleveland each was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because each had previously been convicted a felony offense.
During today’s proceedings, Cleveland admitted to conspiring with Acosta to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute on June 23, 2014, in Doña Ana County.
On May 14, 2015, Acosta pled guilty to the conspiracy charge, the substantive methamphetamine trafficking charge, and to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Acosta entered his guilty plea without the benefit of a plea agreement.
At sentencing, Acosta and Cleveland each face a statutory mandatory minimum of ten years in federal prison. Both men remain in custody pending sentencing hearings, which have yet to be scheduled.
This case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of the FBI and the HIDTA Regional Interagency Drug Task Force/Metro Narcotics Task Force and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Y. Armijo of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.
The HIDTA Regional Interagency Drug Task Force/Metro Narcotics Task Force is comprised of officers from the Las Cruces Police Department, the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, HSI and the New Mexico State Police. 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.