DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

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

For Immediate Release

Monday, February 8, 2016
Damon P. Martinez
, United States Attorney
Contact: Elizabeth M. Martinez

Armed Career Criminal from Albuquerque Sentenced to 22 Years for Firearms Offenses Arising Out of Armed Robbery in Santa Fe

Atencio Prosecuted Pursuant to “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative

ALBUQUERQUE – Elias Atencio, 38, of Albuquerque, N.M., was sentenced this morning in federal court in Santa Fe, N.M., to 22 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his conviction on firearms charges.  The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Thomas G. Atteberry of the Phoenix Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Chief Patrick Gallagher of the Santa Fe Police Department.

U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez said that Atencio was being prosecuted as part 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 work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders primarily based on their prior convictions for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.

ATF Special Agent in Charge Thomas G. Atteberry stated, “No greater priority exists in our enforcement efforts than taking an armed career criminal off the streets.  We will continue to aggressively support the U.S. Attorney’s violent crime initiative targeting the ‘worst of the worst’ offenders.”

“The City of Santa Fe is better for getting this hardened career criminal off our streets.  He was a serious threat to not only the innocent cashiers behind the counters, but also customers who walked into the stores,” said Santa Fe Police Chief Patrick Gallagher.  “Atencio’s litany of dangerous felonies range from armed robbery, burglary and assault with a deadly weapon and show that he wasn’t afraid to put others in danger to get his way.  This conviction locks away that threat for a very long time and sends a message to other criminals that law enforcement agencies are working together to stop lawbreakers threatening our residents.”

Atencio was charged in March 2013, in a three-count indictment with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition; committing commercial robbery in violation of the Hobbs Act; and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.  According to the indictment, Atencio committed the three offenses on Feb. 23, 2012, in Santa Fe County, N.M.  At the time, Atencio was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because he previously had been convicted of numerous felony offenses, including armed robbery, forgery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and burglary.

On Aug. 6, 2014, Atencio entered guilty pleas to the two firearms offenses charged in Counts 1 and 3 of the indictment.  In his plea agreement, Atencio admitted that on Feb. 23, 2012, he unlawfully possessed a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol.  Atencio admitted brandishing the firearm when he robbed the Walgreens store located at 1096 St. Francis Drive in Santa Fe, N.M.  Atencio was arrested in this case in April 2013, after he was transferred to federal custody from state custody.

This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Santa Fe Police Department with assistance from the 1st Judicial District Attorney’s Office.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle T. Nayback prosecuted the case.

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Phoenix Field Division