EL PASO, Texas - Sixteen men and women are facing drug trafficking and money laundering charges after a year-long, multi-agency investigation targeting cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine traffickers and money launderers.
The operation spread from southern New Mexico and west Texas to as far east as Tennessee and South Carolina, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson made the announcement along with the agencies that participated in the operation: the DEA's El Paso Division, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in El Paso, the Phoenix Field Division of IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Las Cruces Police Department, and the Dona Ana County Sheriff's Office.
"The charges filed and drugs seized as the result of this investigation illustrate the success of our District's collaborative efforts to root out drug traffickers who operate in our communities," said U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson.
Law enforcement authorities arrested 14 people in El Paso and Las Cruces on Thursday, and seized approximately 3.6 kilograms of cocaine, approximately 2.5 kilograms of heroin, approximately 13 kilograms of methamphetamine, $124,885 in cash, eight vehicles and seven firearms, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office announcement.
The charges against the defendants come after an investigation that began in April 2017, and initially targeted Eulalio Valentin Chavez, 31, of Las Cruces. The U.S. attorney's office named him as the leader of a drug trafficking organization that allegedly distributed cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine in Las Cruces.
The investigation expanded to include four other drug trafficking organizations that allegedly imported cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine from Mexico, and distributed the drugs in the Las Cruces and El Paso area, as well as transported drugs as far east as Tennessee and South Carolina.
Based on the investigation, a federal grand jury returned five indictments, charging 15 defendants with federal drug trafficking, money laundering and firearms offenses.
According to the U.S. Attorney, the indictments generally allege that the defendants conspired to violate the federal narcotics trafficking laws and violated the federal narcotics laws in Dona Ana County and elsewhere. The indictments also charge certain of the defendants with money laundering and firearms offenses. Four of the indictments include overt acts that describe the drug trafficking operation's alleged operations, including the quantities of drugs it allegedly routinely distributed and the broad geographic scope of one of its distribution networks.
The cooperation between the federal, state, county and local authorities was praised for its value.
"By working together to reduce drug trafficking and use across the nation, we are making our communities safer and our families stronger," said Kyle W. Williamson of DEA's El Paso Division.
"We believe our actions will have a significant impact on drug trafficking organizations working locally and regionally," said Las Cruces Police Chief Patrick Gallagher.
The defendants will remain in federal custody pending arraignment and detention hearings, which are scheduled for May 1 in Las Cruces federal court.