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A second NY man pleads guilty in New Mexico to marijuana trafficking

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A second man from New York pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to drug-trafficking charges following a seizure of 1,100 pounds of marijuana from a tractor trailer in Hidalgo County, N.M., in 2011.

This case was investigated by special agents with U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Eric Bernard Harris, 46, of St. Albans, N.Y., pleaded guilty March 7 to conspiracy to distribute marijuana. His plea was entered without a plea agreement.

Eric Harris's co-defendant, Gary Anthony Harris, 50, of Carle Place, N.Y., pleaded guilty March 5 to marijuana trafficking. The two men are not related.

Eric Harris and Gary Harris were charged by criminal complaint Aug. 8, 2013 with conspiracy to distribute marijuana. On Aug. 13, 2013, HSI special agents arrested Eric Harris in New York, and Gary Harris in Carle Place, N.Y. The two men subsequently appeared in Las Cruces federal court to face the charges against them. On Nov. 13, 2013, they were indicted and charged with conspiracy and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

According to court filings, Carl Francis Carter, 60, of Deptford, N.J., was arrested July 27, 2011. An officer of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety Motor Transportation Division found 1,163 pounds of marijuana concealed in Carter's commercial vehicle during a routine inspection at a checkpoint on Interstate Highway 10 in Hidalgo County, N.M. Subsequent investigation by HSI revealed that Carter had been in communication with Gary Harris the night of his arrest, and that Eric Harris had attempted to contact Carter the next day.

The long-term investigation also revealed that on July 17, 2011, Eric Harris and Gary Harris traveled from New York to Phoenix allegedly to facilitate the purchase of the marijuana, and to transport it from Tucson, Ariz., to New York. On July 27, 2011, after Carter's arrest, Eric Harris and Gary Harris traveled back to New York.

As part of his guilty plea, Eric Harris admitted conspiring with Gary Harris, Carter and others to distribute the marijuana found in Carter's commercial vehicle.

On March 5, Gary Harris pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office. In entering his guilty plea, Gary Harris acknowledged possessing 300 pounds of the marijuana found in Carter's commercial vehicle June 27, 2011. He also admitted that he had traveled with Eric Harris from New York to Arizona to facilitate purchasing and transporting the marijuana from Arizona to New York. As part of his plea agreement, Gary Harris agreed to forfeit $52,882.97 in drug proceeds, which HSI special agents seized from two bank accounts, and a safe deposit box pursuant to seizure warrants.

Carter pleaded guilty Jan. 31, 2012 to marijuana trafficking. He admitted knowingly possessing 1,163 pounds of marijuana July 27, 2011. He also admitted knowing that the marijuana was concealed in his commercial vehicle, and that he expected to be paid for delivering the marijuana for further distribution.

Sentencing hearings for Eric Harris, Gary Harris and Carter have yet to be scheduled. At sentencing, each man faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in federal prison.

HSI special agents in Deming, N.M., responded to the 2011 seizure and initiated a long-term investigation, which later determined Carter had picked up the marijuana in Tucson on behalf of co-conspirators Gary Harris and Eric Harris for distribution in the New York-New Jersey area.

The New Mexico Department of Public Safety Motor Transportation Division assisted with this investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy M. Castellano of the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico, Las Cruces Branch Office.