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June 16, 2022Albuquerque, NM, United StatesNarcotics

HSI investigation results in 2 local men sentenced for drug trafficking, money laundering conspiracy

Third co-defendant awaiting sentencing

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Two New Mexico men were sentenced for their role in a drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy, following an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Albuquerque District Office and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Region III Narcotics Task Force assisted with the case.

On June 7, José Mendoza, 34, of Medanales, was sentenced to 10 years and four months in prison followed by four years of supervised release. Ryan Rodriguez, 29, of Chamita, was sentenced to four years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

In addition to their prison terms, the co-defendants in the case also forfeited numerous vehicles, multiple firearms and $24,893.69 in U.S. currency.

According to their plea agreements and other court records, from June 22, 2018, through Feb. 25, 2020, José Mendoza, and his wife, Natalie Mendoza, 37, conspired with others to distribute cocaine in Rio Arriba County. Rodriguez would obtain cocaine from José Mendoza, convert it to cocaine base, then sell it to others in the Española Valley.

From Oct. 7, 2019, to Jan. 8, 2020, Rodriguez sold and arranged to sell cocaine and cocaine base to an undercover agent. A grand jury indicted the defendants on Feb. 25, 2020.

Natalie Mendoza kept records of drug sales and collected proceeds from drug transactions. Natalie and José Mendoza deposited the proceeds from illegal drug transactions into checking, savings, and loan accounts at various financial institutions to conceal the source of the money. Deposits were often split to avoid amounts that would trigger reporting requirements. The couple also made large payments towards loans or mortgages, including loans for vehicles purchased under other names. José Mendoza admitted to using false income statements to qualify for loans.

José and Natalie Mendoza pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Rodriguez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, five counts of using a telephone to facilitate drug trafficking offenses, one count of distributing cocaine base, four counts of distribution of 28 grams and more of cocaine base, and one count of possession with intent to distribute 280 grams and more of cocaine base.

Sentencing for Natalie Mendoza has been continued to a date to be determined.

The HIDTA Region III Narcotics Task Force includes members of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, New Mexico State Police, Santa Fe Police Department, Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, and the Taos Police Department.

Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Nelson, Peter Eicker and Steve Kotz prosecuted the case.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.