One of these days Jesus Mixtega-Villegas simply may decide to stay in Mexico. So far, his life choices in Albuquerque aren’t working out – for anybody.
Since 2007, Mixtega’s career path has gone from construction worker to illegal immigrant transporter to crack cocaine street dealer to methamphetamine and heroin dealer.
Mixtega has been sent to federal prison three times and deported to Mexico three times. He also has a state conviction for trafficking methamphetamine.
Undeterred, he’s back in New Mexico where he’s in jail facing new federal drug charges.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents believe Mixtega had a major role in moving pounds of methamphetamine and heroin from Phoenix to Albuquerque to Des Moines, Iowa, on a weekly schedule, according to federal court documents.
Mixtega, 39, claims he was only a minor player in the drug operation and that he was beaten and threatened into working for Mexican drug cartel members here in Albuquerque.
The new federal charges he faces – possession of methamphetamine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime – are the type any street-level drug dealer faces. But the current charges don’t yet include the half pound of methamphetamine DEA agents seized from Mixtega’s car or the pound of heroin they found in his home on Kentucky SE while serving a search warrant last month.
Mixtega is being held in federal custody on his new charges and for violating conditions of his release from federal prison by re-entering the country.
DWI arrest, drugs and a gun
Mixtega’s present legal problems began long before his arrest last month.
In January 2018, DEA agents in Des Moines arrested several Mexican nationals operating a major methamphetamine sales business in and around the Midwestern city.
They were bringing in kilograms of meth every few weeks for sale to local dealers.
After his arrest, one of the leaders of the group would only identify his supplier as “Armando.”
But other members of the Iowa network identified an “Armando Villegas” from Albuquerque as their source of methamphetamine. One of the group said he had worked with “Armando” in New Mexico.
According to court records, DEA agents in Albuquerque were aware that “Armando Villegas” was an alias used by Mixtega in his past cases and began looking into his latest activities.
Late last year, agents found 14 money wire transfers being sent from Albuquerque under the name of “Armando Villegas” to Mexico between July 2017 and June 2018. Most of the money transfers were sent to Culiacán, in the Mexican state of Sinaloa where the Sinaloa Cartel is based.
Agents found Mixtega had two different homes in Albuquerque but no visible means of supporting himself.
They picked up his trash and found wrapping material that tested positive for heroin.
But their investigation was brought up short on March 2, when Mixtega was pulled over by an APD officer and arrested for drunken driving.
When asked for his driver’s license, Mixtega produced a Mexican government identification card in the name of Armando Villegas.
Before having Mixtega’s car towed, officers conducted an inventory of its contents. They found $3,992, a 9 mm pistol and about 3 ounces of suspected methamphetamine. APD didn’t file drug or gun charges.
Mixtega was released from the Metropolitan Detention Center on his pending drunken driving case and bought a used car.
This time he was followed by DEA agents.
On March 13, agents pounced and arrested Mixtega and found about a half pound of methamphetamine in the vehicle.
They then searched his home on Kentucky SE and found almost a pound of heroin and records of six more money transfers to Mexico.
When questioned by agents, Mixtega said he had been beaten by members of “La Linea” – the successor to the Juárez Cartel – in Albuquerque and forced to work for them.
Agents said in court documents that they decided Mixtega was deliberately misleading them because he wouldn’t or couldn’t identify the cartel members, only vaguely described where they lived and didn’t have any telephone numbers for his alleged bosses.
In addition, he was sending money to Sinaloa rather than Juárez.
He kept coming back to U.S.
Each of Mixtega’s earlier convictions led to his deportation to Mexico after doing some prison time.
He didn’t stay long, returning to the U.S. where he committed new crimes. This time, however, the charges could carry heavier penalties because of his previous record, the amount of drugs involved and firearm possession.
Mixtega first came to the attention of federal law enforcement in May 2007 when U.S. Border Patrol agents found Mixtega and two other men at a rest area on Interstate 10.
They told agents they were there to pick up a group of undocumented migrants near mile marker 52 and were being paid $400 to transport the group to Albuquerque.
The agents then went to mile marker 52 where they found a group of 10 people waiting to be picked up. Members of the group had paid fees ranging from $1,500 to $1,900 to a human smuggler who provided a guide who took them 32 miles west of Palomas, Mexico, and led them for three days across the border until they reached I-10. Border Patrol agents arrested the group about an hour after they were left near the highway.
At the time, Mixtega was in the United States illegally, according to his plea agreement.
The maximum penalty for transporting illegal immigrants is 10 years, but he was sentenced to just eight months in prison and deported on Jan. 24, 2008.
A year later, Mixtega was back and arrested for selling crack cocaine in the Southeast Heights to an Albuquerque police informant.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office took over the case and charged him with possession of cocaine, selling crack cocaine and being in the country illegally. He pleaded guilty to selling a little over 3 grams of crack cocaine and was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and ordered to be deported upon release.
He was deported May 25, 2012, and was back in New Mexico within a year.
In July 2013, Mixtega was arrested during an Albuquerque police undercover drug operation for dealing methamphetamine and heroin.
At the time, Mixtega was using the alias Luis Guexpal-Cansino, but fingerprints saw through that and he was also charged in federal court with being in the country illegally and violating the terms of his previous federal sentence.
He was sentenced to more than three years in federal prison and again ordered deported.
Each time, there was an additional period of “unsupervised probation” that would have covered his time back in Mexico. It essentially gives prosecutors additional leverage if the defendant returns illegally to the U.S. and commits new crimes.
Meanwhile, Mixtega pleaded “no contest” in state court to trafficking in methamphetamine and conspiracy.
He was sentenced to serve six years in prison – concurrent with the federal prison time – and a parole term of two years.
In a letter written by a fellow inmate on his behalf, Mixtega asked the federal judge in that case to shorten his prison sentence.
“The reason we fled Mexico and came to this country was because of threats we received from the organized crime in Mexico; we were told we had to pay them about $2,000 or they will harm me and my family,” the letter said.
“The reason I’m looking for the Court to reduce my time is so I may go back to Mexico but to a different state so I can start a new life with my family. My wife is having a hard time finding work here and take care of my son.”
On June 7, 2016, he was deported to Mexico for the third time.
Within a year, he was back in Albuquerque where he is now accused of being deeply involved in a drug trafficking network.