For Immediate Release
Two Albuquerque Residents Sentenced and a Mexican National Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges Arising Out of ATF-Led Operation Targeting Drug Trafficking and Firearms Crime in Bernalillo County
75 of 103 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 103 Bernalillo County residents with federal firearms and narcotics trafficking offenses. To date, 75 of the 103 defendants charged as the result of this investigation have entered guilty pleas and 39 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.
Josue Duarte, 31, of Albuquerque, was sentenced in federal court in Santa Fe, N.M., on Aug. 31, 2017, to 24 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his methamphetamine trafficking conviction. Robert Henry Lovato, 44, also of Albuquerque, was sentenced in federal court on Sept. 6, 2017, to 48 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his methamphetamine trafficking conviction.
Antonio Perez-Contreras, 30, a Mexican national, pled guilty in Albuquerque federal court on Sept. 7, 2017, to violating federal drug trafficking and firearms laws. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Perez-Contreras will be sentenced to 108 months in federal prison.
Duarte and co-defendant Johnny Flores, 23, were charged in a four-count indictment filed on Aug. 9, 2016, with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine from July 18, 2016 through July 26, 2016, and distribution of methamphetamine on July 22, 2016; Flores with distribution of methamphetamine on July 18, 2016; and Duarte with distribution of methamphetamine on July 26, 2016. According to the indictment, the offenses took place in Bernalillo County. On March 16, 2017, Duarte pled guilty to a felony information charging him with distribution of methamphetamine. In entering the guilty plea, Duarte admitted that on July 26, 2016, he arranged the sale of and sold methamphetamine to an undercover law enforcement agent. Flores pled guilty in Dec. 2016, and was sentenced in June 2017.
Lovato was arrested on July 6, 2017, on an indictment charging him with distributing methamphetamine on April 19, 2016, in Bernalillo County. On Feb. 21, 2017, Lovato entered a guilty plea to a felony information charging him with distributing methamphetamine.
Perez-Contreras and codefendant Jesus Manuel Garcia, 43, of Albuquerque, were charged by indictment on June 30, 2016, with methamphetamine trafficking, firearms and illegal reentry offenses. The indictment was superseded on July 28, 2016, and again on Jan. 12, 2017. The ten-count second superseding indictment charged Perez-Contreras and Garcia with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine from May 3, 2016 through July 6, 2016, and distributing methamphetamine on May 18, 2016 and July 6, 2016. Perez-Contreras was charged individually with being an alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition and illegal reentry into the United States on May 18, 2016, and distribution of methamphetamine on June 9, 2016. Garcia was charged individually with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition on May 17, 2016, May 18, 2016, June 7, 2016, and July 6, 2016. On Sept. 7, 2017, Perez-Contreras pled guilty to a felony information and admitted that on May 18, 2016, he distributed approximately 415.4 grams of methamphetamine to an undercover law enforcement agent. Perez-Contreras further admitted that he possessed a firearm and ammunition on May 18, 2016, and was prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition because he was an alien unlawfully in the United States. Perez-Contreras remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.
Twenty-five of the defendants who were charged as the 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. One defendant is a fugitive and the charges against two defendants have been dismissed.
These cases were investigated by the Albuquerque office of ATF. Duarte was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul H. Spiers. Lovato was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly A. Brawley. Perez-Contreras is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elaine Y. Ramirez and Raquel Ruiz-Velez.