Last of 21 Defendants Arrested in November 2013 as a Result of a Multi-Agency Investigation into Heroin Trafficking in Doña Ana County Pleads Guilty
ALBUQUERQUE—Patrick Gonzalez, 39, of Las Cruces, N.M., pleaded guilty today in federal court to heroin trafficking and firearms charges under a plea agreement that requires him to serve an 18-year federal prison sentence followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.
Lead defendant Jovita Belmonte-Gonzalez, 43, a Mexican national from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, Gonzalez, and 19 other Las Cruces residents were charged with heroin trafficking offenses in five indictments filed in Nov. 2013, as a result of a multi-agency investigation led by the FBI that targeted Belmonte-Gonzalez’ heroin trafficking activities of in Doña Ana County, N.M. Belmonte-Gonzales was named as the lead defendant in four of five indictments which charged her with supplying heroin to drug trafficking organizations that distributed heroin in Doña Ana County.
Belmonte-Gonzalez, pled guilty to heroin trafficking charges in four of the five cases in June 2014, and admitted conducting frequent heroin transactions with her co-defendants between June 2013 and Oct. 2013. Court records reflect that Belmonte-Gonzalez typically negotiated heroin sales by telephone from Juarez and her co-defendants traveled from Doña Ana County to Juarez where they purchased the heroin from her and later distributed the drugs in Doña Ana County. Belmonte-Gonzales faces a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, and will be deported after she completes her prison sentence. She remains in federal custody pending her sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
During today’s proceedings, Gonzalez pled guilty to participating in a heroin trafficking conspiracy and to being a felon in possession of a firearm. In entering his guilty plea, Gonzalez admitted that from Sept. 2013 through Oct. 2013, he facilitated at least a dozen drug transactions involving an aggregate of 2.4 kilograms of heroin between Belmonte-Gonzalez and other co-conspirators. Gonzalez also admitted that he arranged for individuals to travel to Belmonte-Gonzalez in Juarez, Mexico, to purchase heroin on his behalf and then bring the heroin back to him in Doña Ana County, N.M., where he distributed the heroin to others. He further admitted that on Nov. 15, 2013, he possessed four firearms and that he kept them because of the dangers associated with dealing illegal drugs though he knew he was prohibited from possessing firearms because of his status as a convicted felon.
Gonzalez is the last of the 21 defendants charged as a result of the investigation to enter a guilty plea.
These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney E. Garreth Winstead, III, of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office. The investigation leading to the charges in the four cases was led by the Las Cruces office of the FBI in collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Las Cruces office of the DEA, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Las Cruces Police Department and the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office.
The investigation was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, a nationwide Department of Justice program that 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.
This case is 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 trafficking organizations for investigation and prosecution is a priority of the HOPE Initiative.