Seven Lea County residents are behind bars on federal narcotics trafficking and money laundering charges as part of a multi-agency investigation led by the DEA into a drug trafficking organization based in Hobbs.
The seven residents, four of them Mexican nationals, and a resident of Yuma, Ariz., allegedly imported methamphetamine and cocaine into Lea County from Mexico through Arizona.
Those arrested Wednesday include Jose Raul Mendivil-Berrelleza, 33, a Mexican national residing in Hobbs, who police say led the Lea County-based drug trafficking organization, as well as Daniel L. Perea, 37, of Hobbs, Jeremy W. Gough, 40, of Hobbs, Carlos Espinoza-Perez, 27, a Mexican national residing in Hobbs; David Torres-Arellanes, 28, a Mexican national residing in Hobbs; Roberto Rendon-Duran, 70, of Yuma.
Reco Curry, 37, of Hobbs was arrested Tuesday night.
An eighth defendant arrested on June 13, has also been federally charged as the result of the investigation. Felipe T. Castillo, of Eunice, is charged in a criminal complaint with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The charge allegedly arises out of an incident during which Castillo, a convicted felon, pointed a firearm at an officer who was conducting surveillance in connection with the investigation.
A ninth defendant, Miguel Angel Luna-Arredondo, 24, a Mexican national residing in Hobbs, has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.
All eight suspects in custody face 20-count indictments for conspiracy, methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking, and money laundering offenses.
During the course of the investigation, law enforcement authorities seized 28.6 pounds of pure methamphetamine and 2.6 pounds of cocaine during a traffic stop in Lea County on Feb. 27, 2017. They also seized $14,000 in cash during a vehicle inspection at the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 10 in Doña Ana County on July 5, 2017.
During Wednesday’s law enforcement operation, law enforcement authorities executed federal search warrants at three residences and two travel trailers in Hobbs and seized approximately half a pound of cocaine, a handgun and approximately $5,000.
Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney and Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the DEA’s El Paso Division announced the federal charges Wednesday following the law enforcement operation in Hobbs that resulted in the arrest of seven of the eight defendants. Joining them in making the announcement were Special Agent in Charge Waldemar Rodriguez of HSI in El Paso, Commander Sean Roach of the Lea County Drug Task Force, Lea County Sheriff Byron Wester, and Hobbs Police Chief Chris McCall.
“This investigation was a coordinated effort to crackdown on drug trafficking in southeastern New Mexico,” Tierney said. “It is part of our statewide fight against illegal drugs and the cycle of violence that goes hand in hand with drug trafficking. Those who choose to engage in drug trafficking should be on notice that federal, state and local law enforcement are committed to working together to put them out of business and into prison cells.”
“This investigation has been a team effort between all agencies involved and it culminated with a safe takedown. Anytime you can take a large amount of narcotics off the streets is a good day,” said Roach of the Lea County Drug Task Force. “I cannot say thank you enough to all of the agencies that participated throughout the investigation. This investigation and arrests will have a major impact on the stream of narcotics coming into the Lea County area as well as the surrounding areas.”
HPD Chief McCall said, “The Hobbs Police Department was extremely happy to partner with the other agencies involved in this investigation and we appreciate the partnerships. The results of this investigation will undoubtedly slow the flow of drugs into our community and have a positive impact on the safety of our citizens.”
Sheriff Byron Wester of the Lea County Sheriff’s Office said, “This investigation is an example of cooperation between local and federal law enforcement to combat the distribution of illegal narcotics within our community. The Lea County Drug Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Administration jointly completed a successful investigation and operation (Wednesday) that attempts to rid our community of illegal narcotics. I thoroughly appreciate their efforts to make our community a safer place.”
Count one of the indictment charges all eight defendants with participating in a conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine and cocaine in Lea County and elsewhere between November 2016 and July 2017.
Count two charges Mendivil-Berrelleza and Rendon-Duran, with participating in an international money-laundering conspiracy. Counts three through five charge certain defendants with methamphetamine trafficking offenses and count six charges certain defendants with a cocaine trafficking offense.
Counts seven through 20 charge certain defendants with using communications devices to facilitate their drug trafficking activity.
All eight are scheduled to make their initial appearances in federal court in Roswell at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 3.