Abraham Andres Rios, 37, a Mexican national, pleaded guilty to heroin and cocaine trafficking charges in federal court in Albuquerque on Tuesday (Oct. 3) after a co-defendant, Jose Alfredo Martinez-Salas, also a Mexican national, pleaded guilty to a cocaine trafficking charge this summer, admitting that he had picked up a package of cocaine in Taos for distribution in Albuquerque.
According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice New Mexico district, Rios, Martinez-Salas, 37, and a third co-defendant, Omar Garcia, 34, of Albuquerque were arrested in September 2016 after they attempted to distribute approximately 6.1 kilograms of cocaine and 1 kilogram of heroin to undercover Homeland Security Investigations agents.
A four-count indictment was filed two months later in October 2016, charging Rios and Garcia with conspiracy and possession of cocaine and heroin with intent to distribute, and Martinez-Salas with distribution of cocaine.
This week, Rios pleaded guilty to three counts charging him with conspiracy and distribution of heroin and cocaine. He faces between five and 40 years incarceration in federal prison and remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing that has not yet been scheduled.
Garcia entered a plea of not guilty to his charges.
On July 27 Martinez-Salas pleaded guilty to count four of the indictment – distribution of cocaine. In entering the plea, he admitted that on Sept. 15, 2016 he distributed 3.2 kilograms of cocaine – narcotics that he said he had picked up in a backpack in Taos with the intention of making a delivery to individuals in Albuquerque. Law enforcement arrested him outside an Albuquerque restaurant after he delivered the cocaine to other individuals.
At a sentencing hearing to be scheduled at a future date, Martinez-Salas will face a statutory mandatory minimum penalty of five years and a maximum of 40 years in federal prison.
The Albuquerque Homeland Security and Drug Enforcement Administration offices conducted the investigation into the drug ring. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander M. Uballez as part of the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) initiative. The program was launched in January 2015 in response to the national opioid epidemic.
The press release offered no further information regarding the package of cocaine that Martinez-Salas picked up in Taos, a detail that suggests that Taos County may serve as more than another market for illicit drugs in New Mexico, but also as a thoroughfare for their trade.