Eight men indicted in meth trafficking ring
Police say three of the men arrested were ringleaders of a drug trafficking operation that was responsible for 60 to 70 percent of the meth distributed in San Juan County
- Eight men face charges for allegedly trafficking meth in northwest New Mexico and on tribal land.
- Police arrested six of the men on Wednesday and one of the men today.
- One of the men, Manuel Ruiz, was still being sought today in connection to the case.
- Police say three of the men were ringleaders of the operation and may have ties to a Mexican cartel.
FARMINGTON — Eight men are facing federal charges on allegations they were trafficking methamphetamine on the Navajo reservation and in northwest New Mexico, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.
Six of the eight men were arrested Wednesday by agents with Homeland Security Investigations and the Region II Narcotics Task Force, which is composed of law enforcement officers from this area, the release states.
Those men made initial court appearances this morning in Farmington on meth distribution charges.
Luis Rangel-Arce, 44, was arrested this afternoon in Kingman, Ariz., according to San Juan County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Kevin Burns, an operation supervisor with the Region II Narcotics Task Force.
Agents continue to search for another fugitive in the case — Manuel Ruiz, 45.
As part of Wednesday's drug bust, law enforcement authorities seized more than 2 1/2 pounds of meth, 10 firearms, approximately $1,600 in cash and a vehicle, according to the release.
The criminal investigation was initiated after agents observed an increase in meth trafficking in the Shiprock area, the release states. The eight defendants were identified as suspects through a series of meth purchases by undercover law enforcement officers, according to the release.
Three Mexican nationals — Miguel Rangel-Arce, 36, Luis Rangel-Arce and Rogelio Santiago Quiroa-Valdez — are charged in a seven-count indictment with participating in a meth trafficking conspiracy between November and March, and with distributing meth on six occasions in the first three months of this year, according to the press release.
Burns said the three Mexican nationals were the ringleaders of the drug trafficking organization, which was responsible for 60 to 70 percent of the meth distributed in San Juan County.
Burns said the men moved to the Shiprock area in the last couple of years and integrated into the Navajo community.
"There is not as much enforcement action there," Burns said. "They were operating untouched and unchecked until they showed up on our radar."
Burns said the task force and federal law enforcement agents began their investigation into the drug trafficking operation about two years ago. They discovered the Mexican nationals were the leaders of the organization last summer, according to Burns.
He said the men obtained large amounts of meth from Phoenix and they may have ties to a Mexican cartel.
Miguel Rangel-Arce listed a Phoenix, Ariz. residence as his address on a booking sheet filed at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center.
He is named as a manager of AZ Pacifico Group, a limited liability company incorporated in March 2014 in Maricopa County, Ariz., according to Arizona state records.
Quiroa-Valdez listed an address in Shiprock as his residence on a jail booking sheet.
More arrests may result from the operation, according to Burns.
"It's very possible that more information, or information learned yesterday, may lead to more charges," Burns said. "It will take us a little while to go through the information. We have to see what we got."
Burns said he was "extremely pleased" with the operation.
"We dismantled this group so they can no longer operate, which is our primary function," he said.
- Ruiz, of Kirtland, who police are still looking for, was charged with distributing meth in March, according to the release.
- Troy Begay, 36, of Kirtland is charged with distributing meth in March.
- Lewayne Dennison, 38, of Fruitland, is charged with distributing meth in October.
- Kirk Castor, 35, of Kirtland, is accused of distributing meth on two occasions in April 2015.
- George Begay, 47, of Fruitland, is accused of distributing meth in April 2014.
Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.