FARMINGTON — Court documents filed Thursday shed more light on the investigation into a San Juan County methamphetamine trafficking ring.
Law enforcement officials charged 29 people Wednesday with state and federal meth trafficking charges as part of a year-long operation called "Brown ICE." The investigation targeted a network of drug dealers allegedly headed by Isaac Anaya, a 30-year-old Farmington man.
To get the probable cause needed to make the arrests, undercover narcotics agents and criminal informants bought drugs throughout the county, according to arrest warrant affidavits filed in San Juan County magistrate courts. The evidence mentioned in the affidavits dates back to fall 2013.
The San Juan County District Attorney's Office will prosecute 16 of the cases, which were filed in state court.
A federal indictment that charges 13 suspects with conspiracy to traffic meth and other drug charges was unsealed Wednesday night. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Mexico will prosecute those 13 cases.
The cases will be tried in different courts because law enforcement presented evidence to federal and state attorneys, who then decided if the suspects would face state or federal charges, said San Juan County Sheriff's Office Lt. Neil Haws, the director of the Region II Narcotics Task Force. A federal meth trafficking conspiracy conviction can carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. A meth trafficking conviction in state court is punishable by up to nine years in prison.
To convict a person of conspiracy to traffic meth in federal court, prosecutors must prove two or more people worked together to violate the federal drug law and that the defendant knew the objective of the conspiracy and knowingly engaged it in, according to Elizabeth Martinez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Mexico.
"In determining whether to file federal drug charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office considers various factors, including but not limited to the type of the drug involved, the quantity of the drugs involved, the defendant's prior criminal history, and whether there are any unique federal interests involved," Martinez said in a statement.
Martinez said the suspects who were arrested Wednesday on federal charges made their first appearance in federal court in Albuquerque on Thursday morning. They will be arraigned on the charges, enter pleas and have detention hearings today and Monday, she said.
Many of affidavits in the state cases were filed in San Juan County magistrate courts on Thursday. Most detail how Region II agents met with criminal informants, put recording devices on them and watched them enter suspects' homes to purchase drugs before confiscating the narcotics.
Some of the documents offer more specifics.
Rusty Betts, 32, was one of the men charged in state court on suspicion of meth trafficking. On Oct. 9, an undercover narcotics agent and a criminal informant met Betts and his girlfriend at Cruzann's Restaurant, 1401 E. Broadway Ave. The agent wore a wire and recorded the meeting, according to court documents.
The agent and the informant got in the back seat of Betts' car. And the agent handed Betts $1,600 dollars.
Betts, a handgun in his lap, counted the money. When finished, his girlfriend allegedly handed the agent a McDonald's wrapper and said "here is your guy's cookies," according to court documents. Inside the wrapper were two ounces of meth, according to court documents.
Colby Crawford, 40, was also arrested Wednesday on suspicion of drug trafficking. He met a wired criminal informant on Dec. 9 at San Juan College's Health and Human Performance Center, according to court documents.
Crawford met the informant in the parking lot, and they drove to Albertsons, 4909 E. Main St. Crawford allegedly sold the informant heroin, according to court documents.
On Wednesday, local law enforcement tracked down and arrested 14 of the 16 suspects who will face state meth trafficking charges, Haws said. The other two suspects were already in state custody on other charges.
Homeland Security agents arrested 11 of the 13 suspects facing federal drug trafficking charges on Wednesday. As of Thursday evening, the other two suspects — Fay Gordon, 29, and Casey LaMotte, 28 — are considered fugitives.
Police initially said LaMotte was arrested on Wednesday. Haws said there was a "mix up," when law enforcement officials said LaMotte was arrested.
When reached on Thursday morning, LaMotte denied any involvement in the criminal network.
LaMotte said in a telephone interview Thursday that he was at his home on Wednesday and didn't know he faces drug trafficking charges. He said he had moved out of Flora Vista, which is his last known place of residence.
"I do not traffic meth," LaMotte said. "I don't have anything to do with it. ... My mom could have a heart attack."
LaMotte said the San Juan County police dispatchers he called on Wednesday night told him he did not have a warrant for his arrest. LaMotte is charged with a federal offense, and police dispatch would only be aware if someone has a warrant for their arrest on state charges, Haws said.