ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — Seven of eight alleged methamphetamine traffickers on the Navajo Indian Reservation in northwestern New Mexico were arrested this week as part of a multi-agency investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the HIDTA Region II Narcotics Task Force. One of the eight indicted as part of this investigation is still at large.
These cases were investigated by HSI Albuquerque and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Region II Narcotics Task Force with assistance from the following agencies: FBI’s Farmington (New Mexico) office, U.S. Marshals Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Division of Drug Enforcement, Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety, New Mexico State Police, San Juan County (New Mexico) Sheriff’s Office, Farmington Police Department, and the New Mexico National Guard.
Six of the defendants were arrested Wednesday during a law enforcement operation that included the execution of two search warrants at residences in Shiprock and Kirtland, New Mexico. The seventh defendant was arrested Thursday in Kingman, Arizona, by the Kingman police officers.
The investigation leading to the federal charges was initiated in response to an increase in methamphetamine trafficking on the Navajo Indian Reservation in the Shiprock area. The investigation identified eight defendants, who are charged in five indictments, through a series of methamphetamine purchases by undercover law enforcement officers. On Wednesday, law enforcement authorities seized more than 2 ½ pounds of methamphetamine, 10 firearms, about $1,600 in cash and a vehicle.
The investigation was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a Department of Justice program that combines the resources and unique expertise of federal agencies, along with their local counterparts, in a coordinated effort to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations.
“We are very pleased to see the hard work of this joint investigation come to completion,” said Operations Sgt. Kevin Burns of the HIDTA Region II Narcotics Task Force. “We are confident the efforts of this investigation will make this community safer and hold narcotic traffickers accountable in San Juan County.”
This investigation resulted in the filing of indictments in the following federal cases:
- The seven-count indictment filed in United States v. Arce, et al., 16-CR-1433 JAP, charges Miguel Rangel-Arce, 36, Luis Rangel-Arce, 44, and Rogelio Santiago Quiroa-Valdez with participating in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy between November 2015 and March, and with distributing methamphetamine on six occasions between January and March. The three defendants are Mexican nationals who have been residing in San Juan County. Miguel Rangel-Arce and Quiroa-Valdez were arrested Wednesday. Luis Rangel-Arce was arrested Thursday in Arizona.
If convicted, these defendants face the following statutory penalties: Miguel Rangel-Arce faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison; Luis Rangel-Arce faces a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison; Quiroa-Valdez faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. The three men also face deportation if convicted.
- The indictment filed in United States v. Ruiz, et al., 16-CR-1432 WJ, charges Manuel Ruiz, 45, and Troy Begay, 36, both of Kirtland, New Mexico, with distributing methamphetamine in March. Begay was arrested Wednesday. Ruiz has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive. If convicted, Ruiz and Begay each face a statutory penalty of a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison.
- The indictment filed in United States v. Dennison, 16-CR-1431 JCH, charges Lewayne Dennison, 38, of Fruitland, New Mexico, with distributing methamphetamine in October 2015. Dennison was arrested Wednesday. If convicted, Dennison faces a statutory penalty of a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison.
- The indictment filed in United States v. Castor, et al., 16-CR-1430 JCH, charges Kirk Castor, 35, of Kirtland, with distributing methamphetamine on two occasions in April 2015. Castor was arrested Wednesday. If convicted, he faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
- The indictment filed in United States v. Begay, 16-CR-1429 JCH, charges George Begay, 47, of Fruitland, New Mexico, with distributing methamphetamine in April 2014. Begay was arrested Wednesday. If convicted, he faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The six defendants arrested Wednesday made their initial appearances in federal court Thursday in Farmington. Their arraignment hearings, which are set to take place in federal court in Albuquerque, have yet to be scheduled. Luis Rangel-Arce’s initial appearance is pending.
Charges in indictments and complaints are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless convicted in a court of law.
Individuals with information on the whereabouts of Manuel Ruiz are asked to contact the HIDTA Region II Narcotics Task Force at 505-344-6622.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elaine Y. Ramirez, District of New Mexico, is prosecuting these cases.
The HIDTA Region II Narcotics Task Force is comprised of officers and investigators from the Farmington Police Department, San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, Bloomfield Police Department, Aztec Police Department and HSI Albuquerque. It is part of the HIDTA program that was created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. HIDTA is a program of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) that 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. It seeks to reduce drug trafficking and production by facilitating coordinated law enforcement activities and information sharing.