Federal Indictment Charges 15 Men from Albuquerque and Edgewood with Alleged Drug Trafficking and Financial Crimes

January 29, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on January 27, 2012 released the following:

“ALBUQUERQUE—A 29—count federal indictment charging 15 men from Albuquerque and Edgewood, N.M., with drug trafficking, money laundering, and currency structuring charges was unsealed late yesterday afternoon, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales; Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the El Paso Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Carol K.O. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the Albuquerque Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and Dawn Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Division of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS).

The indictment is the result of a multi-agency investigation into a major drug trafficking and money laundering organization operating out of the Albuquerque metropolitan area that was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) program. OCDETF is 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.

Yesterday, a team of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers arrested nine of the 15 defendants named in the indictment, and executed 10 search warrants at residences in Albuquerque and a ranch in Edgewood. Those arrested include Steve Chavez, 32, a fireman with the Albuquerque Fire Department. Two other defendants, Jesus Ramos Castillo, 29, and Gabriel Guerra-Gonzalez, 27, both Mexican nationals, are in state custody on pending local charges; they will be transferred to federal custody to face the charges in the indictment. The defendants arrested yesterday are scheduled to make their initial appearances in federal court in Albuquerque this morning.

Four defendants, Homero Varela, 29, Manuel Villa-Mayorquin, 23, and Procoro Noberto-Alvarez, 28, Mexican nationals, and Ramon Gonzalez, Jr., 25, of Edgewood, have yet to be arrested and are considered fugitives.

The indictment alleges that, between May 2011 and January 2012, all 15 defendants participated in a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, including cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana. Each defendant also is charged with using communication devices to facilitate drug trafficking crimes (sometimes referred to as “phone counts”), and Homero Varela is charged with distributing methamphetamine on three separate occasions over a three month period. The maximum penalties for a conviction on the conspiracy charge and each of the three methamphetamine distribution charges is a minimum 10 years’ to a maximum of life imprisonment and a $10 million fine, and the maximum penalty for a conviction on each of the phone counts is four years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

The indictment also charges Homero Varela, Roy Madrid, 21, of Albuquerque, and Manuel Villa-Mayorquin with conspiracy to launder money. Homero Varela is further charged with an additional count of money laundering involving drug proceeds. A conviction on the money laundering conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of 20 years of imprisonment, and a conviction on the substantive money laundering charge carries a maximum penalty of ten years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Ramon Gonzalez, Jr., is charged with seven counts of structuring financial transactions to avoid certain reporting requirements for an aggregate of $166,300 through 24 transactions between April 2009 and August 2011. Steve Chavez is charged with structuring an aggregate of $348,500 in 37 transactions between July 1, 2011 and August 25, 2011. The maximum penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is five years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

The indictment also seeks forfeiture of property constituting, or derived from proceeds obtained directly, or indirectly, from the defendants’ illegal drug trafficking and financial crimes, including three Albuquerque residences owned, occupied or in the possession of Homero Varela, Ramon Gonzalez, Sr., and Steve Chavez, respectively, and a ranch in Edgewood owned by Ramon Gonzalez, Sr. It also seeks forfeiture of funds in numerous bank accounts in the names of Homero Varela, Ramon Gonzales, Sr., Ramon Gonzalez, Jr., Andres Gonzalez and Steve Chavez, as well as a money judgment of at least $15,000,000, the amount of money allegedly derived or involved in the offenses alleged in the indictment.

During yesterday’s law enforcement operation, officers seized a half kilogram of cocaine, more than 10 pounds of high grade marijuana, approximately $25,000 in cash, 20 vehicles, seven handguns, nine rifles, and two shotguns.

In announcing yesterday’s arrests, U.S. Attorney Gonzales said, “The charges in this indictment are some of the most significant drug and money laundering charges ever filed in the District of New Mexico. The investigation that led to this indictment exemplifies the law enforcement cooperation that we are fortunate to experience here in New Mexico. Federal, state and local officers worked long and hard and side-by-side in a coordinated effort to arrest numerous individuals charged in the indictment. We owe a debt of gratitude to everyone involved in the investigation. Their efforts have made our streets and communities much safer.”

“The Varela organization has been responsible for distributing multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine in central and north central New Mexico,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Arabit. “DEA and our federal, state, county, and municipal law enforcement partners have worked hand-in-hand to disrupt this organization from its roots, culminating in the indictment of 15 of its members of which 11 are in custody and the seizure of their drugs and assets, including 20 vehicles, 18 weapons, cash, and real property. Through these enforcement actions, we are making our communities safer.”

“These significant investigations and arrests would not have been possible without the joint efforts of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, led by the DEA, the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Forces in Albuquerque and Las Cruces, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and numerous other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies throughout the region, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Lee. “We all share the same goal: stop criminal enterprises that profit from the illegal trade of dangerous drugs and take away any financial benefit they receive from their crimes. The Albuquerque FBI will continue to collaborate with our law enforcement and community partners to rid our rural and urban areas of drug traffickers and other criminals and help make New Mexico and our nation a safer place to live.”

IRS Special Agent in Charge Mertz stated, “This indictment once again reflects the successful merging of law enforcement personnel, who work together through the task force, providing their specific skills, with the common purpose of ferreting out potential nefarious narcotics and related financial crimes. IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to work alongside our law enforcement partners to investigate those individuals who ignore the laws of our country for financial gain.”

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Reeve Swainston and Samuel L. Hurtado, and was investigated by DEA, FBI, and IRS with support from the New Mexico State Police, the Albuquerque Police Department, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, and the Corrales Police Department. Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the Air Branch of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the New Mexico Department of Public Safety Motor Transportation Police Division, and the Region II HIDTA Task Force participated in yesterday’s law enforcement operation.

Charges in indictments are only accusations. All criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Fifteen Individuals Indicted in an Alleged Large-Scale Federal Drug Conspiracy Case

January 11, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on January 10, 2012 released the following:

“Fifteen individuals have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit on federal charges, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced. Ms. McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Robert L. Corso, Drug Enforcement Administration; Special Agent in Charge David McCain, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Special Agent in Charge Andrew Arena, Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.

Indicted were Orlando Ricardo Gordon, 32, of Franklin; Vince Jerome Shivers, 42, of Southfield; Derrick Arnold Terry, 51, of Detroit; Danta Shamu-Parker Johnson, 34, of Detroit; Darren Davon Terry, 35, of Detroit; Trenton Jordan Obamwonyi, 27, of Detroit; Tamiko Mel-Lang Hodo, 36, of Detroit; Anthony Wayne Hall, 46, of Detroit; Anton Jamaill Harris, 32, of Detroit; Ervin Kenneth Vincent, 24, of Inkster; Darnell Darryl Easterling, 48, of Detroit; Courtney Deon Shafi Strickland, 36, of Detroit; Benjamin Isaac Carter, 39, of Detroit; Erik Lee Ross, 34, of Sterling Heights; and Allen Corey Terry, 47, of Farmington Hills.

As alleged in the indictment, the conspiracy lasted for years, dating back to 2008, and involved in excess of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, five kilograms of cocaine, and 280 grams of crack cocaine. Some of the defendants are also charged with being felons illegally possessing firearms. The narcotics trafficking conspiracy carries possible sentences of 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine, and the felon in possession charges carry possible sentences of up to 10 years of prison.

The investigation involved multiple federal agencies, including DEA, ATF, FBI, and IRS. The investigation included seizures of large sums of U.S. currency, including a seizure of more than $500,000 from a residence in Franklin, Michigan, large quantities of drugs, including a seizure of over 1,000 kilograms/2,200 pounds of marijuana, and multiple firearms.

United States Attorney McQuade stated that, “Large-scale drug trafficking and accompanying gun crimes create danger and fear in our neighborhoods. The coordinated efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies helped to dismantle this conspiracy.”

ATF Special Agent in Charge David McCain said, “Narcotics trafficking along with violent firearm activity destroys the families and neighborhoods in our communities. ATF along with its state, local, and federal partners will continue to aggressively pursue those violent individuals and organizations that cripple our communities with crime.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge Robert L. Corso said, “Today’s arrests are significant. These individuals directed a major marijuana and cocaine trafficking ring that operated throughout southeast Michigan. The dismantling of this organization has halted the flow of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of illegal drugs into metropolitan Detroit. This investigation exemplifies the strong collaborative effort that exists between DEA and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, and is a positive step towards making our community safer for everyone.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena said, “Narcotics trafficking continues to plague this region and directly contributes to violence on our streets. The FBI will continue to partner with federal, state, and local law enforcement to address these issues.”

IRS Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez said, “This indictment illustrates the seriousness behind prosecuting drug trafficking crimes. The role of IRS-CI is to take the profit out of these illegal organizations. Drug dealers pollute our neighborhoods with no regret as their actions are only fueled by greed. The seizure of their illegal proceeds, drugs, and weapons brings us one step closer to justice.”

The Detroit Police Department, the Franklin Police Department, the Troy Police Department, the Novi Police Department, the Warren Police Department, the Michigan State Police, and the U.S. Marshals Service also assisted in the investigation of the case.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.