DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

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

For Immediate Release

Monday, March 20, 2017
James D. Tierney
, United States Attorney
Contact: Elizabeth M. Martinez

Albuquerque Resident Pleads Guilty to Federal Methamphetamine 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

ALBUQUERQUE – Leo Lopez, 27, of Albuquerque, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court to a methamphetamine trafficking charge.  Under the terms of his plea agreement, the government and the defendant agreed to recommend a sentence of 60 months imprisonment followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.
Lopez and co-defendants Felix Ulibarri, 39, Joseph Sena, 40, and Jennifer Padilla, 39, were 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.
Ulibarri was indicted on July 28, and was charged with distributing methamphetamine on July 11, 2016.  The indictment subsequently was superseded on Aug. 9, 2016, to add Lopez, Sena and Padilla.  The superseding indictment charged Ulibarri and Padilla with participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in July 2016; Lopez, Sena and Padilla with participating in a different conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in July 2016; Ulibarri with distributing methamphetamine on July 11, 2016; and Sena with distributing methamphetamine on July 26, 2016.  According to the indictment, the defendants committed the crimes in Bernalillo County.
During today’s change of plea hearing, Lopez pled guilty to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, and admitted that on July 26, 2016, he helped arrange a methamphetamine transaction between Sena, Padilla and himself.  Lopez remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
To date, 32 of the 104 defendants have entered guilty pleas, and three defendants have been sentenced.  The remaining defendants, including Ulibarri, Sena and Padilla 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 is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Han.
Phoenix Field Division