FBI gang unit seizes $100,000 in stolen loot - Albuquerque Journal

FBI gang unit seizes $100,000 in stolen loot

FBI Special Agent in Charge Raul Bujanda shows the boxes of stolen merchandise discovered in four North Valley storage units last week, including a Ninja blender, air compressors and power tools. The firearms seized included a World War II-era weapon, seen in the foreground. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2023 Albuquerque Journal

FBI agents were in for a surprise the morning of Jan. 5 in their continuing investigation of the Brew Town Locos street gang.

Typically agents with the FBI’s Violent Gang Task Force in Albuquerque find drugs, guns or money when executing search warrants.

This time they discovered evidence of a different kind of drug trade.

Inside four units at a North Valley self-storage business, agents found more than $100,000 worth of suspected stolen items from major retailers, some with the price tags still attached.

From brand new air fryers, to high-end Dyson vacuum cleaners to lawn mowers, power tools, chainsaws and large screen TVs, FBI agents removed more than 200 mostly big-ticket items as evidence.

Many items were still packaged in their original boxes, and may have been in storage for a while, given the dust that had settled on some.

Agents also seized more than 50 firearms, including a World War II-era German-made MG 42 machine gun.

More than 300 bottles of liquor were seized by an FBI violent gang task force in Albuquerque investigating drug trafficking activities in which such merchandise appears to have been traded for guns or drugs. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

And there was the high-end booze: more than 300 unopened bottles of rum, whiskey, gin, vodka, champagne, tequila and other alcoholic beverages, according to a criminal complaint filed by FBI Special Agent Bryan Acee. The complaint was made public Tuesday.

Now the FBI is searching for a suspect believed to have rented the storage units, a 51-year-old convicted felon wanted on a federal charge of felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Leonard J. Lucero. (Courtesy of FBI)

Leonard John Lucero is believed to be an associate of the Brew Town Locos gang and has been identified as a source of supply for fentanyl tablets and firearms, while also selling heroin and methamphetamines, the complaint states. The storage units were identified as the locations where Lucero kept firearms and drugs.

One informant told the FBI that Lucero also stored stolen property inside the storage units, “most of which Lucero acquired from his drug clients as payment for drugs,” according to a search warrant affidavit signed by Acee.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Raul Bujanda told the Journal on Tuesday that the FBI is asking major retailers in the area, such as Lowe’s, Home Depot and Target, to contact the FBI to see if any of the seized merchandise came from their stores.

The owners of the booze might be more difficult to track down, so the liquor will likely go down the drain. There also may be some items in the stash that were stolen during home burglaries.

Recovering stolen items “has just not really been a focus of ours,” Bujanda said. “What do you with all this stuff? We’re not really equipped to go ahead and start housing this kind of equipment here. Our focus is usually the guns or the drugs.”

But he acknowledged a link between drug trafficking and the recent spate of organized retail thefts.

“We have a retail theft problem. We have a drug problem. We have a gun problem,” Bujanda said. “There is some bartering that goes with this, but it’s because they’re looking at anything they can do (such as stealing from retailers) to continue to support their habit.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Raul Bujanda surveys the estimated $100,000 of suspected stolen merchandise discovered as part of an FBI Violent Gang Task Force investigation of drug trafficking activities of an Albuquerque street gang. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

In addition to the self-storage units, task force agents searched a nearby residence where Lucero is believed to have been living with his parents.

Leonard John Lucero’s vehicle was parked at the home and his father answered the door. But Lucero couldn’t be located. Agents seized 15 guns from that home.

FBI spokesman Frank Fisher said agencies that helped execute the search warrants included the Albuquerque Police Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and Rio Rancho police.

The seizures came as part of a 3-year-old FBI investigation of the street gang. Fisher said just four months ago, the same FBI task force executed warrants that led to the seizure of 1.1 million fentanyl pills, 147 pounds of methamphetamines, 37 guns, and $1.8 million in cash at a South Valley residence.

“This is another success story by the Violent Gang Task Force,” Fisher said. “When it’s in the news, it’s usually for something big. This task force goes after the worst of the worst.”

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