Kathy Porter Rodriguez
156 lbs of marijuana seized from a 96 Dodge Ram
(Deming) – Two Santa Fe residents were caught at the Columbus port of entry trying to smuggle nearly $125,000 worth of marijuana into New Mexico from Mexico.
The driver, 49-year-old Kathy Porter Rodriguez, and her passenger, 49-year-old Vernon Martinez, are facing federal drug smuggling charges in connection with the 156 pounds of marijuana seized from their 1996 Dodge Ram truck.
The marijuana was detected by a “Buster” density meter which showed high readings consistent with hidden contraband. The density meter was used after officers selected the vehicle for a secondary search because of a number of issues that arose during an initial conversation with the occupants.
An x-ray of the truck spotted anomalies in several locations, and the 139 marijuana-filled bundles were removed from hidden compartments in the quarter panels and rear wall of the
Acting Columbus port director Jose Robles said the arrests resulted from hard-working Customs and Border Protection officers and advanced technology.
(Deming) – A Deming man was arrested at the Columbus port of entry Tuesday after being caught with nearly 300 pounds of marijuana.
66-year-old old Benjamin Espino was turned over to U-S Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents to face federal charges in connection with the failed smuggling
Columbus Port Director Robert Reza said Espino was driving a 2000 Chevrolet Silverado pickup at just after 3:30 Tuesday morning.
Reza said the pickup was selected for secondary exam… and port officers noticed signs of tampering. An x-ray of the truck showed anomalies in the appearance of the floor of the truck. A narcotics canine also alerted to the floor… and that’s where officers found 276 marijuana-filled bundles weighing 295-pounds.
Reza said Espino is a legal permanent resident from Mexico who lives in Deming.
Although the primary mission of U-S Customs and Border Protection officers is anti-terrorism… their mission also
includes carrying out traditional border-related responsibilities, including narcotics interdiction.
Reza said they screen all people, vehicles and goods entering the United States while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel into and out of the U-S.
Officials at the Luna County Detention Center said a photo of Espino was not available due to him being charged with a Federal Crime.
(Deming) - The trial for a Deming family accused of selling weapons to Mexican cartels is underway in Las Cruces.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reports testimony began Wednesday in the trial of New Deal Shooting Sports owner Rick Reese, his wife, Terri, and their sons Ryin and Remington.
The four are accused of selling 34 weapons and ammunition to undercover agents and a Mexican cartel member-turned-government informant from 2010 to July of 2011.
Authorities contend the Reese's fudged firearms purchasing forms during the transactions and laundered the proceeds.
Defense attorneys have argued that the four followed the law, reporting sales of multiple firearms to federal authorities.
The Reese's have pleaded "not guilty" in the case… and their defense attorneys have argued publicly that political fallout from
Operation Fast and Furious prompted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to accuse the Reese family of allegedly selling guns to individuals posing as straw purchasers.
The trial in U-S District Court is expected to last from two to three weeks.
A married couple who both hold Columbus Village trustee positions are expected to officially resign next month.
Columbus Mayor Nicole Lawson confirmed that William "Bud" Canfield and Jeane Canfield will be resigning to move to Wisconsin.
Lawson said Bud Canfield had an existing medical condition that was recently exacerbated, and they decided to move closer to family members.
Bud Canfield was in the middle of his four-year term as a trustee, and Jeane Canfield was just elected this month to a four-year term.
Bud was the last remaining trustee in office from before the gun smuggling case that rocked the border community last year and prompted the resignations of the mayor, police chief and trustee Blas "Woody" Gutierrez.
Lawson said the Canfields have not submitted their resignations yet, but she expects them to do so next month, effective April 30th.
She has notified Municipal League attorneys of the impending resignations.
Lawson said once the resignations are official, she will request letters of interest from Columbus residents who would like to be appointed to the village trustees. She will then select two candidates from those letters and submit her choices to the trustees for approval.
The first defendant in the gun smuggling case that involved the Columbus mayor, police chief and village trustee has been sentenced by a federal judge in Las Cruces.
Judge Robert Brack sentenced 27-year-old Vicente Carreon to 46 months in prison during a hearing Wednesday. Brack also ordered that Carreon be placed under supervised release for a period of three years after completing his prison term.
Brack reportedly rejected a prosecutor's request that Carreon be given a stiffer sentence.
Carreon pleaded guilty to one count of smuggling firearms from the United States and one count of conspiracy -- admitting that he assisted in the smuggling into Mexico of at least 30 nine-millimeter pistols purchased from Chaparral Guns in Chaparral New Mexico.
Carreon assisted by removing serial numbers as well as U-P-C codes from firearms boxes, purchasing a backpack used in transporting the firearms and transporting the firearms to a stash house in El Paso.
Last summer, 14 people were charged in federal indictments involving arms smuggling to Mexican cartels. Columbus Police Chief Angelo Vega, Mayor Eddie Espinoza, and a trustee, Blas "Woody" Gutierrez, were among the defendants charged.
Federal prosecutors say the defendants were part of a conspiracy in which straw buyers bought about 200 firearms from a dealer in Chaparral and sent them to Mexican drug gang members.
The Senate has approved a proposal to impose new restrictions on granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
Democrats pushed the measure as an alternative to a proposal by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to stop New Mexico from granting licenses to illegal immigrants.
The Senate approved the bill late Monday night on a 27-15 vote. One Democrat, Senator John Arthur Smith of Deming, joined Republicans in opposing the measure.
The proposal will continue to grant licenses to illegal immigrants, but require fingerprinting of applicants and limit the licenses to one year. The state also can cancel previously issued licenses to foreign nationals if they no longer live in New Mexico.
The bill goes to the House, which has rejected a similar proposal. The governor also opposes the Senate-passed measure.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in New Mexico say they've made an unusual seizure -bundles of marijuana stashed inside wood-framed and mirrored quinceanera plaques. An 18-year-old Colorado woman has been arrested in the case. A pickup truck entered the Columbus port from neighboring Palomas, Mexico, about noon Sunday and the vehicle was selected for a secondary exam. Officers found numerous boxes filled with quinceanera decorations and noticed an anomaly in several of the plaques. CBP officers dismantled the plaques and recovered 104 pounds of marijuana wrapped in 100 thin, rectangular wrapped packages. Authorities say Tahlia Arana Perea, of Denver, was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. It was unclear Monday whether Perea has legal representation yet.
Luna County Sheriff Raymond Cobos is among New Mexico border-area sheriffs slated to meet with Colorado sheriffs this week in Las Cruces.
Lieutenant Jon Mooridian said the meeting was organized after some Colorado sheriffs indicated an interest in learning more about area narcotics and human trafficking issues, how the border is patrolled, and seeing the terrain first-hand.
Mooridian said often officials have misconceptions about the challenges of border law enforcement, including the remoteness and rough terrain along parts of New Mexico's 54-mile international border with Mexico.
Luna County is part of a five-county border sheriff's coalition involving Dona Ana, Hidalgo, Grant and Otero counties. Mooridian said those agencies are participating in this week's information-sharing session with the Colorado sheriffs. He added that as many as 10 New Mexico sheriffs may be there, and up to 25 Colorado sheriffs.
The meeting is taking place Tuesday and Wednesday at a Las Cruces hotel, and will involve escorting the visitors to see the international border firsthand.