LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A state government employee is in federal custody after his arrest Wednesday on a drug charge. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents are investigating the case.
Saul Velasco, 37, of Alamogordo, N.M., is charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He was arrested Sept. 26 at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol checkpoint on U.S. Highway 70 west of Alamogordo.
According to court documents, Border Patrol agents found 9.7 pounds of marijuana in the state government vehicle Velasco was driving. As New Mexico juvenile probation officer, Velasco was on official duty when he was arrested.
There were 10 bundles of marijuana in a gym bag inside Velasco's vehicle, according to court documents. He allegedly paid $2,500 for the nearly 10 pounds of marijuana from a man whom he met near a restaurant on U.S. Highway 54, north of El Paso, Texas.
Velasco had his initial appearance in federal court Thursday in Las Cruces; he is scheduled to have a preliminary and detention hearing Friday. HSI special agents assigned to the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) in Las Cruces continue to investigate the case.
BEST is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ICE-led initiative that operates along the U.S.-Mexico border. BEST in Las Cruces was formed in June 2009, and is one of 32 BEST teams with locations around the U.S. and Mexico. HSI is charged with enforcing a wide array of immigration and customs laws, including those related to securing the border and combating criminal smuggling.
Las Cruces BEST members include the following law enforcement agencies: HSI, ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), CBP's Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Doña Ana Sheriff's Office.
BEST members are co-located so that they can effectively share information among their partner agencies. Close coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies helps to identify and eliminate cross-border criminal organizations and the infrastructures that sustain them.