AZTEC — Eight suspects charged in connection to an 18-month, undercover investigation into a methamphetamine dealing ring in San Juan County appeared in magistrate court this week and waived their rights to preliminary hearings.
Last week, local and federal law enforcement officials announced 29 people had been charged with crimes in connection to the drug dealing ring allegedly headed by Isaac Anaya, 30. The suspects were charged after an investigation police called Operation Brown ICE.
Anaya and 12 other suspects were charged in federal court.
Sixteen people were charged in state court as part of the investigation. Of those charged in state court, 12 were charged with second-degree felonies for trafficking drugs and four suspects were charged with lesser crimes.
Of the 12 charged with drug trafficking, eight appeared in magistrate court in Farmington and Aztec on Wednesday and Thursday.
All of the defendants waived their preliminary hearings, said San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien.
If the defendants had demanded a hearing, prosecutors would have had to call witnesses to show there was probable cause the defendants were guilty of the crimes.
O'Brien didn't say if the waivers were part of plea negotiations.
Undercover narcotics agents and criminal informants purchased drugs from the suspects dating back to fall 2013 to get probable cause for the charges filed last week, according to court documents.
Most of the suspects who were charged in connection to the investigation will remain incarcerated as they wait for their cases to go to trial.
Of the 13 suspects charged in federal court, 12 of them have had detention hearings, and a judge ordered 11 of them to be held without bond until their trials, according to court documents.
It's not unusual for federal judges to hold drug trafficking suspects without bond, said Elizabeth Martinez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Mexico.
As part of Operation Brown ICE, the 13 people below face federal drug trafficking charges:
Isaac Anaya, 30, of Farmington
Julia Oros, 30, of Mesa, Ariz.
Casey LaMotte, 28, of Flora Vista
Curtis Murray Sr. 50, of Farmington
Brandon Smith, 28, of Farmington
Bobby Hampton, 29, of Bloomfield
Pedro Lucero, 37, of Farmington
Yvonne Anaya, 38, of Bloomfield
Robert Valdez, 50, of Bloomfield
Richard Archuleta 32, of Bloomfield
Ernesto Felix, 51, of New Mexico
Wesley Contreras, 19, of Farmington
Fay Gordon, 29, of Farmington, who is a fugitive
Also as part of the operation, the following people were arrested on state drug trafficking charges:
Cimmaron Archuleta, 32, of Bloomfield
Patrick Archuleta, 34, of Farmington
Leonard Barela, 33, of Bloomfield
Rusty Betts, 32, of Farmington
Tiffany Bond, 33, of Farmington
Colby Crawford, 40, of Flora Vista
Derek Hellickson, 26, of Farmington
Anthony Jones, 34, of Farmington
Aaron Mobley, 35, of Aztec
Leon Serrano, 30, of Bloomfield
Hollis Turner, 22, of Aztec
Jobie Wells, 38, of Bloomfield
Fay Gordon, 29, has not been arrested on the federal drug trafficking charges filed against her as part of the case.
Of the 12 suspects charged with drug trafficking in state court, only three have posted bond and have been released from the San Juan County Adult Detention Center, according to jail records.
All four of the suspects charged with lesser crimes as part of the investigation have been released from the detention center, according to jail records.
"We're all entitled to a bond, unless it is a heinous crime," San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen said. "But we're not doing them any favors by lowering their bond and getting them out of jail. Keep them in jail and give them a chance to get past their addiction."Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.