The Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force and numerous other law enforcement entities recently received a national award for their joint efforts in a special operation that eliminated a major drug-trafficking organization operating in the Roswell area and using the city as a hub to send illicit narcotics to other cities throughout the United States.
The local narcotics task force – consisting of members of the Roswell Police Department, Chaves County Sheriff’s Office and federal agencies – joined with the Roswell office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in November 2019 to initiate an investigation of the drug-trafficking organization. The year-long investigation resulted in federal indictments of 18 members of the criminal organization – and the arrests of at least 17 of them, including the organization’s leader – on 61 counts for charges related to drug trafficking, firearms, money laundering and other financial crimes. As a result, the organization was completely dismantled and agents were able to initiate additional investigations in other regions that are still ongoing.
This successful investigation has now been recognized with a national award from the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program. The Outstanding Cooperative Effort Award recognizes the efforts of the various entities that contributed to the operation. After the investigation was launched by the Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force and DEA, the other entities that contributed to the operation as it progressed were U.S. Homeland Security Investigations-New Mexico, Pecos Valley Drug Task Force (based in Eddy County), Lea County Drug Task Force, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office and New Mexico State Police. The investigation also involved the IRS, U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The investigation linked the drug-trafficking organization to major cities such as El Paso, Texas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and Tijuana, Mexico. The investigation also identified Mexican-based supply sources of the drugs, transportation networks from the Southwest United States border into New Mexico, and a large-scale distribution network spanning nearly every city and town in the southeastern portion of New Mexico.
All federally-charged individuals have pleaded guilty to various criminal counts. The organization’s leader is line for a prison sentence of 22 years and five of his top distributors are expected to receive sentences in excess of 10 years.
The federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas grant program, created by Congress as part of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, provides assistance to federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States. Chaves County is one of 17 counties that make up New Mexico’s designated High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.