Six Albuquerque Residents Indicted on Federal Robbery, Firearms, and Prescription Drug Trafficking Crimes Arising Out of Pharmacy Robberies
ALBUQUERQUE—U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Kari E. Brandenburg, Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the DEA’s El Paso Division, Special Agent in Charge Thomas G. Atteberry of the Phoenix Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Chief Gorden Eden, Jr., of the Albuquerque Police Department convened a press conference today to announce the filing of indictments against six individuals who allegedly robbed retail pharmacies in Albuquerque, N.M., to illegally obtain Oxycodone and other highly addictive opioid painkillers.
U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez opened the conference by stating, “Like many communities across the country, retail pharmacies in the Albuquerque metropolitan area recently have become targets of individuals who rob them, often at gunpoint, to obtain Oxycodone and other opioid painkillers with the intention of illegally selling the pills for profit. Here in Albuquerque and throughout New Mexico, the recent rash of pharmacy robberies is an example of why New Mexico’s violent crime and opioid abuse and overdose death rates are among the highest in the country. The federal law enforcement community is working with its state and local partners to target pharmacy robbers for federal investigation and prosecution through two federal initiatives: the Worst of the Worst Anti-Violence Initiative and the HOPE Initiative.”
“These cases illustrate how a team of federal and local law enforcement agencies can work together to put a dent in the high rate of violent crime afflicting our area. The FBI brings years of experience fighting this type of crime, along with highly trained investigators and intelligence analysts always looking at the big picture and sharing information with our partners,” said FBI Special Agent Carol K.O. Lee. “These arrests were made possible thanks to the dedication and persistence of a team of FBI Special Agents and Professional Support staff, together with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, Metropolitan Detention Center, and the Albuquerque Police Department.”
“DEA is committed to thoroughly investigating and arresting anyone responsible for the diversion of opioids, whether it be individuals who are prescribed these medications and divert them for personal profit, or drug organizations who think they can violently rob pharmacies to sell these drugs in our communities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy. “We will continue to fight this epidemic and lock up anyone trying to profit from the sale of these dangerous and highly addictive drugs.”
Four indictments charging a total of six defendants with robbing retail pharmacies in Albuquerque were filed under seal yesterday and were unsealed earlier today. The indictments charge the following Albuquerque residents with crimes arising out of retail pharmacy robberies: Roy Christopher, 28, Josephine Duran, 23, Blake Gallardo, 22, Valentin Garcia, 22, Victor Hurtado, 20, and Joseph Montano, 22. Hurtado and Montano were arrested this morning. Christopher, who is currently in state custody, will be transferred to federal custody to face the charges against him. Duran, Gallardo and Garcia have yet to be arrested and are considered fugitives.
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.
Gallardo and Duran are charged in Indictment 15-CR-1504-JB, 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 15CR-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 Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office has been working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as well as local and federal law enforcement agencies, to ensure a smooth transition of cases from the state prosecution level to the federal prosecution level. We have maintained an open flow of communication by meeting with representatives of the various agencies and offices to discuss timelines and case developments, which has been particularly necessary given the new case management rules for the district court,” said 2nd Judicial District Attorney Kari E. Brandenburg. “Our goal is to facilitate justice at any level, and we value our partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
Noting that three of the four indictments include allegations that firearms were brandished at pharmacy employees during the robberies, ATF Special Agent in Charge Thomas G. Atteberry said, “Today’s indictments are an excellent example of the law enforcement partnerships we share here in New Mexico. When violent individuals are taken off the street, our communities breathe a little easier. I want to acknowledge the leadership of U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez and his prosecution team for their tenacity and diligence.”
“APD is working with retail pharmacies to enhance their security systems in an effort to deter pharmacy robberies, identify pharmacy robbers, and prevent the illegal distribution of prescription opioids,” said APD Police Chief Gorden Eden, Jr. “APD appreciates the support of its federal counterparts in ensuring that violent individuals do not terrorize our local businesses, and is grateful for the support and leadership of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in these efforts.”
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.
Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Photographs of the fugitives, Josephine Duran, Blake Gallardo and Valentin Garcia, are attached to this press release. 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.