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Major U.S.-Mexico Drug Ring Shut Down

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Twenty individuals, who allegedly participated in conspiracies to distribute marijuana and cocaine from Mexico in New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Tennessee and to launder drug proceeds, are charged with drug trafficking and money laundering in two indictments unsealed Thursday in federal court in New Mexico.

The indictments, filed under seal on Sept. 20, were the result of “Operation Short Final,” a multi-agency operation spearheaded by the DEA.

On Thursday morning, federal, state and local law enforcement officers executed a coordinated series of operations that resulted in the arrests of 18 of 20 defendants charged in the indictments.

The arrests shut down “a significant pipeline used by Mexican drug traffickers and their U.S.-based confederates to distribute drugs throughout the United States, and then funnel the proceeds from drug sales back to Mexico,” U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales said in a news release.

The two indictments were announced Thursday by Gonzales; Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s El Paso Field Division; Dawn Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Office of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation; and Scott A. Luck, Chief Patrol Agent of the U.S. Border Patrol El Paso Sector.

One indictment charges 16 defendants with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and cocaine between January and September this year, with members of the alleged conspiracy using pickup trucks to transport bulk quantities of marijuana and cocaine from Mexico to New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa and conduct money laundering activities in four states, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in the release.

The second indictment charges six defendants, including two named in the first indictment, with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and cocaine between May and September 2012, as well as with money laundering, cash smuggling and immigration charges involving New Mexico, Colorado, Minnesota and Tennessee, the release said.

Searches were conducted Thursday at three Las Cruces residences, a residence in Denver and another in Midland, Texas.

Six defendants were arrested in Las Cruces, four in Denver, two in El Paso, one each in Santa Fe, Midland, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City and Racine, Wis., and another, already in state custody in Texas, will be transferred to New Mexico.

Defendants with New Mexico connections include: Eidolfo Domingo-Lopez, 32, a naturalized U.S. citizen who lives in Las Cruces; David Garcia Jr., 29, of Las Cruces; Gilbert Hinojosa, 31, of Las Cruces, who was arrested in Denver; Carlos Alberto Luis Calderon, a Mexican national who lives in Hatch and was arrested in Racine, Wis.; Martha Denise Gomez, 26, of Las Cruces; Omar Macias, 39, a Mexican national who lives in Las Cruces and was in custody in Texas; Michelle Marquez, 22, of Las Cruces; Mauricio Chaparro, 26, of Las Cruces; Jesus Manuel Veleta-Gastelum, 56, a Mexican national who is a legal permanent resident of Santa Fe and was arrested in Las Cruces; Lazaro Mendoza-Dominguez, 41, a Mexican national who lives in Santa Fe and was arrested in Santa Fe.

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