Ten people conspiring to supply Lea County with narcotics were arrested this week in a multi-agency investigation, according to a U.S. Department of Justice statement.
The operation concluded with the arrest of five people on Thursday, some of whom live in Hobbs. Defendants in the case include seven Lea County residents: Patricia Chihuahua, age 37; Ricardo Hernandez, 44; Abraham Navarrette, 59; Beatrice Sandoval, 39, all of Hobbs; Anita Rios, 45, of Loving-ton and Maria Dominguez, 41, of Jal. Others arrested are Luis Batista-Feliz, 47, of Phoenix; Edwin Cervantes, 27, of Los Angeles; Diane Medrano, 43, of La Luz, N.M.; and Isaac Miranda, 22, of El Paso.
Federal, state and local law enforcement conducted an 11-month-long investigation that led to the confiscation of 116 pounds of methamphetamine, 354 grams of heroin and 20 firearms.
A 38-page federal grand jury indictment lays out a timeline of illegal drug activity between multiple people facing federal drug trafficking charges.
The operation headed by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Lea County Drug Task Force led to arrests in New Mexico, Arizona, California and Texas and federal search warrants at residences in Hobbs and La Luz.
“All agencies involved worked well together and it is shown in the results of the investigation,” said Lea County Drug Task Force Commander Sean Roach. “This case will have a major impact on the methamphetamine trafficking in Lea County. This investigation took many man hours and effort, but in the end, it all pays off to see the impact made in our communities.”
Roach said two arrests were of drivers who transported drugs between locations. The indictment indicated Chihuahua and Cervantes as the drivers. Although the head supplier of narcotics has not been identified, the drugs were supplied by a Mexican cartel, according to Roach.
According to the grand jury indictment, the investigation started in March 2018 when Chihuahua and Cervantes were stopped by law enforcement in Chaves County with 7.48 kilograms of methamphetamine being transported from Los Angeles.
Roach said the majority of drugs brought into Lea County stay in Lea County, which isn’t typical of other towns bordering Mexico and United States. In other border towns, narcotics move through them, he said.
“Hobbs has always had a large narcotics presence,” Roach said.
In the investigation, detectives allegedly discovered Rios ordered an ounce of meth in June of 2018 from Navarrette. He was reportedly caught with 25 grams of meth a month later.
Navarrette was also caught saying he would package meth for a customer and arrange for Hernandez to deliver 4 ounces of meth to a customer, according to court documents.
According to the grand jury indictment, Navarrette gave Chihuahua thousands of dollars in drug proceeds. She is also alleged to have sold meth from her Hobbs residence.
A 10-pound shipment of meth for $4,500 was allegedly delivered to Navarrette’s house in the 2000 block of East Church Street in Hobbs.
Miranda is accused of transporting 10 pounds of meth worth $4,500 to Navarrette. Medrana allegedly did illegal drug business with Navarrette. Medrano is also charged with engaging in a conspiracy to export firearms to Mexico.
All of the defendants face federal charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, including methamphetamine. All defendants, except Dominguez, face a penalty of 10 years to life in prison if convicted of this offense. Dominguez, if convicted, faces a penalty of from 5 to 40 years in prison.
Medrano also is charged with engaging in a conspiracy to export firearms to Mexico. Medrano faces a penalty of up to 5 years in prison if convicted of this offense. Some defendants also face additional charges. Charges in indictments are only accusations.
“This operation is proof that when law enforcement agencies work together, anything can be accomplished,” said Lea County Sheriff Corey Helton. “The multiple agencies worked seamlessly to apprehend major players in methamphetamine trafficking in our state. I am proud of all the men and women who worked countless hours on this case.”