DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

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

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, April 4, 2017
James D. Tierney
, United States Attorney
Contact: Elizabeth M. Martinez

Albuquerque Man Sentenced to Prison for Federal Heroin Trafficking Conviction

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, 29, of Albuquerque, N.M., was sentenced today in federal court to 36 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his heroin trafficking conviction.  In addition, Gonzales was sentenced to a year and a day of imprisonment for violating his supervised release on an earlier conviction, to be served consecutive to the three-year sentence for a total sentence of 48 months of imprisonment.
 
Gonzales was arrested during an ATF-led investigation that resulted in the filing of 59 federal indictments and a 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 distributing heroin on July 27, 2016, in Bernalillo County, N.M.  On Dec. 5, 2016, Gonzales pled guilty to the indictment, and admitted that on July 27, 2016, he sold 26.7 grams of heroin to an undercover law enforcement agent. 
 
To date, 32 of the 104 defendants have entered guilty pleas, and four defendants have been sentenced.  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.
 
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the ATF and was 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.
 
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