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Man gets 48 years in drug transport case

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An Alamogordo resident was sentenced to 48 years in prison Monday after he was convicted in a money-laundering and racketeering case in April.

Joe Chavez, 43, and his brother, Robert Chavez, 41 – also known as the “AZ Boys” – masterminded a meth trafficking scheme between Arizona and New Mexico. They were both found guilty on charges connected to the case earlier this year.

Joe Chavez was sentenced by 5th District Court Judge Mark Sanchez on Monday and could spend the rest of his life in prison. Robert Chavez earlier was convicted and sentenced to 36 years.

The AG’s Office said that every few weeks, Robert Chavez would send drug runners on a nine-hour rural route to bring meth from Arizona to Alamogordo while avoiding border checkpoints, according to the Attorney General’s Office. On more than one occasion, the meth was found packed into a spare tire. Police say the operation was going on for at least four years.

One of the drivers told a jury that Robert Chavez forced her to perform oral sex on him, and would beat his girlfriend when the driver messed up or stopped too often. Robert Chavez would follow the driver, she said.

Both brothers would launder the money, typically paying cash for cars from a local auto dealer.

The “AZ Boys” bought at least 18 cars with cash from the auto dealer, Richardson Motor Co., over four years, and would put them in Joe Chavez’s and his girlfriend’s name.

The dealer, Robbie Richardson, now faces racketeering, money-laundering and conspiracy charges. Some of those cars were used to run drugs from Arizona to Alamogordo.

When one of Robert Chavez’s drivers was arrested in April 2012, she told the Otero County Narcotics Enforcement Unit about the arrangement. She made a trip to Phoenix under police surveillance, picking up four pounds of meth and taking it to Alamogordo.

Police arrested Robert Chavez with the meth in Alamogordo, then arrested Joe Chavez, who had around $30,000 hidden in his sock drawer.

Investigators began following the money trail, finding links between the cars, homes and other property belonging to the AZ Boys and their family members. Shortly after, investigators searched the car dealership, a trash bin containing documents was set on fire on the dealership’s property. Investigators then seized all dealership records.

Four other people are still awaiting trial in connection with the case.

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