6 Arrested In El Paso On Federal Drug Trafficking Charges

United States Attorney John E. Murphy, FBI Special Agent in Charge David Cuthbertson and DEA Special Agent in Charge Joseph A. Arabit announced on Thursday the arrests of six individuals based on two federal grand jury indictments in the alleged connection with two major drug trafficking operations in the El Paso/Juarez corridor.

Those arrested on Wednesday, February 9, 2011, include: 21-year-old Abraham Melendez of El Paso; 27-year-old Miguel Humberto Lerma of El Paso; 35-year-old Ruben Salcedo of San Elizario, Texas; and, 27-year-old Jorge Magdaleno of El Paso.

Two defendants were taken into custody on Tuesday, February 8, 2011: 31-year-old Alejandro Melendez, owner of Budget Auto Center in El Paso, and 37-year-old Juan Justino Barragan Purata of El Paso.

A second superseding indictment, returned on February 1, 2011, and unsealed Thursday charges 36-­year-old Adrian Nunez of El Paso, Barragan Purata, Abraham Melendez, Alejandro Melendez and 30-year-old Carlos Armando Bernal-Quintero of El Paso, with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.

The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired together to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine throughout the El Paso area. Bernal-Quintero of El Paso, remains has not been caught. Nunez is currently out on a $20,000 bond after having been arrested in August 2010.

The Nunez investigation, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was conducted by the El Paso Strike Force.

The Strike Force is comprised of FBI and DEA agents. Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Marshals Service, Texas Department of Public Safety, El Paso County Sheriff's Office and the El Paso Police Department also assisted in this investigation.

"The FBI will continue to work in collaboration with our valued law enforcement partners to investigate and seek prosecution of those individuals who choose to participate in drug trafficking enterprises. We will also work in concert with our partners to seize the financial assets of these organizations, which are obtained through illicit means," stated FBI Special Agent in Charge David Cuthbertson.

A superseding indictment, returned last month and unsealed Thursday afternoon, charges eight individuals, including Lerma, Salcedo, and Magdaleno with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.

The indictment alleges that during a seven-month period beginning in May 2010, the defendants, under the direction of 33-year-old Juan Gerardo Pinedo of Sunland Park, New Mexico, conspired to distribute controlled substances including more than five kilograms of cocaine, more than 50 grams of methamphetamine and more than 100 kilograms of marijuana.

Pinedo, as well as co-defendants Yoshio Acosta, age 26, of El Paso; Heriberto Guardian Madera, age 47, a Mexican national residing in El Paso; Uriel Quinonez, age 28 of El Paso; and, Thomas Aldama, age 41 of El Paso, were already in custody prior to Thursday's arrests.

The Pinedo investigation, led by agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, was conducted with assistance from the El Paso Police Department, El Paso County Sheriff's Office, Anthony Police Department, Texas Attorney General's Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

"These arrests demonstrate the value of multi-agency collaboration, which is essential in our ability to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations. We will continue to work together and pursue those who threaten our communities through the smuggling and distribution of illegal drugs," stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit

If convicted, Magdaleno faces between five and 40 years in federal prison; the remaining defendants, ten years to life in federal prison.

An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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