DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
District of New Mexico

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Damon P. Martinez
, United States Attorney
Contact: Elizabeth M. Martinez

Albuquerque Man Pleads Guilty To Federal Heroin Trafficking Charge

Defendant Prosecuted as Part of HOPE Initiative which Seeks to Reduce the Number of Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico

Defendant was one of the 104 Individuals federally charged as a result of ATF-Led investigation pursued in support of federal “worst of the worst” anti-violence initiative

ALBUQUERQUE – Dominic Baca, 27, of Albuquerque, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court to a heroin trafficking charge. 

Baca was arrested during an ATF-led investigation that resulted in the filing of 59 federal indictments and one federal criminal complaint charging 104 Bernalillo County residents with federal firearms and narcotics trafficking offenses.  The investigation began in mid-April 2016, when ATF personnel from throughout the country joined forces with federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies in New Mexico to combat the high rate of violent crime in the Albuquerque metropolitan area.  The investigators utilized a number of investigative techniques, including undercover operations, historical investigation and targeting of multi-convicted felons in possession of firearms.

The investigation was undertaken in support of 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 collaborate with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution primarily based on their prior criminal convictions with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.

Baca was arrested on an indictment charging him with distribution of heroin on July 19, 2016.  During today’s change of plea hearing, Baca pled guilty to the indictment and admitted selling heroin to an undercover agent on July 19, 2016.  At sentencing, Baca faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.  He remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.

To date, four of the 104 defendants charged as a result of the ATF investigation have entered guilty pleas.  The remaining defendants have entered not guilty pleas.  Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.

The case against Baca was investigated by the Albuquerque offices of ATF and DEA and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Presiliano Torrez as part of the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative. 

The HOPE Initiative was launched in January 2015 by the UNM Health Sciences Center and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in response to the national opioid epidemic, which has had a disproportionately devastating impact on New Mexico.  Opioid addiction has taken a toll on public safety, public health and the economic viability of our communities.  Working in partnership with the DEA, the Bernalillo County Opioid Accountability Initiative, Healing Addiction in our Community (HAC), the Albuquerque Public Schools and other community stakeholders, HOPE’s principal goals are to protect our communities from the dangers associated with heroin and opioid painkillers and reducing the number of opioid-related deaths in New Mexico. 

The HOPE Initiative is comprised of five components:  (1) prevention and education; (2) treatment; (3) law enforcement; (4) reentry; and (5) strategic planning.  HOPE’s law enforcement component 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.  Learn more about the New Mexico HOPE Initiative at http://www.HopeInitiativeNM.org.

Field Division: Phoenix Field Division