ALBUQUERQUE , N.M. — A 52-year-old Mexican national was sentenced April 13 to five years in federal prison for methamphetamine trafficking.
This sentence resulted from an investigation conducted by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
After he completes his prison sentence, Ernesto Felix, of Sinaloa, Mexico, will be turned over to ICE Enforcement Removal Operations (ERO) and placed in removal proceedings.
Felix is one of 29 individuals who were charged in February 2014 with drug trafficking offenses following a multi-agency investigation targeting drug trafficking in northwestern New Mexico. The investigation culminated Feb. 26, 2014 when 26 of the defendants were arrested during a law enforcement operation led by HSI and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Region II Narcotics Task Force. Two other defendants were arrested during the course of this investigation, and the final defendant was arrested March 3, 2014.
The 29 defendants were charged as a result of Operation “Brown Ice,” a yearlong investigation that initially targeted a methamphetamine trafficking organization. This organization was led by Isaac Anaya and distributed quantities of methamphetamine throughout San Juan County, New Mexico, and expanded to include other drug trafficking activity in the area. This investigation was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, a nationwide 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.
Thirteen of the defendants, including ringleader Isaac Anaya, 31, of Farmington, New Mexico, were charged in a 15-count federal indictment alleging a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in San Juan County from May 2013 through September 2013. The remaining 16 defendants were charged with state drug trafficking and firearms offenses based on criminal complaints.
During the course of this investigation, officers seized about five pounds of methamphetamine and five firearms. The law enforcement operation on Feb. 24, 2014 included the execution of 11 federal search warrants at two Bloomfield, New Mexico, residences, four Farmington residences, two residences in San Juan County, two Farmington businesses, and a storage unit in Bloomfield. It also included executing three state search warrants at two residences in San Juan County and a Farmington residence. Officers seized the following items during the execution of the search warrants and the law enforcement operation: a fully automatic Glock 19 pistol, a short-barreled rifle, a carbine with an obliterated serial number, four blasting caps, four small binary explosives, and about 31.7 grams of methamphetamine.
On Jan. 12, 2015, Felix pleaded guilty to one count of the indictment and admitted that on July 31, 2013 in San Juan County, he and co-defendant Wesley Contreras, 20, of Farmington, were transporting about 891 grams (about two pounds) of methamphetamine from Arizona to New Mexico when they were apprehended by law enforcement. Felix admitted that he and Contreras were paid to transport the drugs.
Contreras has entered a not guilty plea to the indictment. Charges in indictments are merely accusations; defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The federal and state cases filed as a result of Operation “Brown Ice” were investigated by HSI Albuquerque, San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, HIDTA Region II Narcotics Task Force, and the Bloomfield, Farmington and Aztec police departments.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Reeve L. Swainston and Shana B. Long are prosecuting the federal case. Assistant District Attorney David Cowen of the 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the state cases.