For Immediate Release
Albuquerque Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Heroin Trafficking Charge
Defendant One of 104 Individuals Federally Charged as a Result of ATF-Led Investigation Pursued in Support of Federal “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative; Prosecuted Under HOPE Initiative that Seeks to Reduce Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Phillip Larry Gonzales, 28, of Albuquerque, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court to a heroin trafficking charge. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Gonzales will be sentenced within the range of 36 to 48 months in prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.
Gonzales 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.
Gonzales was arrested on Aug. 10, 2016, on an indictment charging him with distribution of heroin on July 27, 2016, in Bernalillo County, N.M. The indictment included forfeiture provisions requiring Gonzales to forfeit $1,100 to the United States.
During today’s change of plea hearing, Gonzales pled guilty to the indictment. In entering his guilty plea, Gonzales admitted that On July 27, 2016, he sold approximately 26.7 grams of heroin to an undercover law enforcement agent. He remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.
To date, 14 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 was investigated by the Albuquerque offices of ATF and DEA, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rumaldo R. Armijo 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.