DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

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

For Immediate Release

Thursday, June 1, 2017
James D. Tierney, Acting
, United States Attorney
Contact: Elizabeth M. Martinez

Albuquerque Woman 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 – Candace Tapia, 22, of Albuquerque, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court to a methamphetamine trafficking charge under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office

Candace Tapia and her codefendants Gaspar Leal, 47, Bernadette Aurora Tapia, 49, and Brandon Candelaria, 22, were charged as the result of 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.

Candace Tapia and her co-defendants were charged by indictment on July 12, 2016, with conspiracy and distribution of methamphetamine on June 8, 2016, in Bernalillo County.

During today’s proceedings, Candace Tapia pled guilty to an information charging her with distribution of methamphetamine and admitted that on June 8, 2016, she distributed methamphetamine to another person. At sentencing, Candace Tapia faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.

To date, 52 of the 104 defendants have entered guilty pleas and 18 have been sentenced, including Bernadette Aurora Tapia. The remaining defendants, including Leal and Candelaria, have entered not guilty pleas. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.

These cases were investigated by the Albuquerque office of ATF. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel A. Hurtado.



Phoenix Field Division