06/19/2017 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/19/2017 16:59
ALBUQUERQUE - One Albuquerque resident pled guilty and one was sentenced today in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., for violating federal drug trafficking laws. Chere Juarez, 28, of Albuquerque, N.M., pled guilty today to a methamphetamine trafficking charge. Leo Lopez, 28, was sentenced to 60 months in prison followed by four years of supervised release for his methamphetamine trafficking conviction.
Juarez and Lopez were charged as the result of an ATF-led investigation that resulted in the filing of 59 federal indictments and a federal criminal complaint charging 104 Bernalillo County residents with federal firearms and narcotics trafficking offenses. The investigation began in mid-April 2016, when ATF personnel from throughout the country joined forces with federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies in New Mexico to combat the high rate of violent crime in the Albuquerque metropolitan area. The investigators utilized a number of investigative techniques, including undercover operations, historical investigation and targeting of multi-convicted felons in possession of firearms.
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.
Juarez and hercodefendant David Rayford, 25, were charged in a three-count indictment on June 30, 2016. Rayford and Juarez were charged with distribution of methamphetamine on June 7, 2016, and June 14, 2016, and Rayford was charged individually with being a felon in possession of a firearm on May 27, 2016. According to the indictment, the offenses took place in Bernalillo County.
During today's proceedings, Juarez pled guilty to a felony information charging her with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. In entering the guilty plea, Juarez admitted that on June 14, 2016, she sold approximately two ounces of methamphetamine to an undercover law enforcement agent. At sentencing, Juarez faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. She remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.
Lopez's codefendant Felix Ulibarri, 39, was indicted on July 28, 2016, and was charged with distributing methamphetamine on July 11, 2016. The indictment subsequently was superseded on Aug. 9, 2016, to add Lopez, Joseph Sena, 40, and Jennifer Padilla, 39. The superseding indictment charged Ulibarri and Padilla with participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in July 2016; Lopez, Sena and Padilla with participating in a different conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in July 2016; Ulibarri with distributing methamphetamine on July 11, 2016; and Sena with distributing methamphetamine on July 26, 2016. According to the indictment, the defendants committed the crimes in Bernalillo County.
On March 20, 2017, Lopez pled guilty to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, and admitted that on July 26, 2016, he helped arrange a methamphetamine transaction between Sena, Padilla and himself.
To date, 55 of the 104 defendants have entered guilty pleas, including Sena, and 20 have been sentenced. The remaining defendants, including Rayford, Ulibarri and Padilla have entered not guilty pleas. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of ATF. The case against Juarez is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David M. Walsh and Norman Cairns. The case against Lopez is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Han.