DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

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

For Immediate Release

Friday, August 18, 2017
James D. Tierney
, United States Attorney
Contact: Elizabeth M. Martinez

Another Albuquerque Resident Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges Arising Out of ATF-LED Operation Targeting Drug Trafficking and Firearms Crime in Bernalillo County

71 of 104 Federal Defendants Charged as the Result of ATF-Led Investigation Pursued in Support of Federal “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative have Pleaded Guilty

ALBUQUERQUE – In Aug. 2016, a multi-agency investigation led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) concluded with the filing of 59 federal indictments and a federal criminal complaint charging 104 Bernalillo County residents with federal firearms and narcotics trafficking offenses. To date, 71 of the 104 defendants charged as the result of this investigation have entered guilty pleas and 34 of them have been sentenced.

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.

Today, Albuquerque resident, Alex Villarreal, 35, who was charged as the result of the investigation, pled guilty in federal court to violating the federal firearms and drug trafficking laws.

Villarreal was arrested in July 2016, on an indictment charging him with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition on May 23, 2016, and distributing methamphetamine on May 25, 2016. At the time, Villarreal was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because he was previously convicted on larceny, conspiracy to commit larceny, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and aggravated assault. During today’s change of plea hearing, Villarreal pled guilty to the indictment and admitted selling four firearms to an undercover law enforcement agent on May 23, 2016, and 115 grams of methamphetamine to the agent on May 25, 2016. Villarreal acknowledged knowing that he was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because of his status as a convicted felon. Villarreal remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

Thirty-three of the defendants who were charged as a result of the ATF investigation have entered not guilty pleas to the charges against them. 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. The case against Villarreal is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Presiliano Torrez.

# # #

Phoenix Field Division