Farmington – A year-long investigation called “Operation Brown Ice” culminated Wednesday, during an early morning warrant service, led by Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) and the HIDTA sponsored Region II Narcotics Task Force. Twenty-eight people were arrested for their involvement in a drug trafficking ring allegedly led by Isaac Anaya, 30, of Farmington, NM. The ring was initially targeted for allegedly trafficking quantities of methamphetamine throughout San Juan County and then expanded into the trafficking of other drugs. One remaining defendant has not been arrested and is considered a fugitive at this point.
The results of this investigation were announced by Acting US Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough, 11th Judicial District Attorney Robert P. “Rick” Tedrow, Special Agent in Charge Dennis A. Ulrich, II of HSI - El Paso Office, Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Kovacs, San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen, Acting Farmington Police Chief Vince Mitchell, Aztec Police Chief Michael Heal, and Lt. Neil Haws, Director of the Region II Narcotics Task Force (Reg. II). A press conference immediately followed the release.
Please view video footage of the press conference posted above.
Kevin Abar, HSI - Assistant Special Agent in Charge, opened the press conference by saying, “We have worked with our partners to make a huge impact here in the four corners region. What we did was dismantle and disrupt a large criminal organization that had tentacles, not only here within the four corners, but had a far-reaching arm that went all the way down into the Republic of Mexico.”
This investigation was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program. OCDETF is a nationwide endeavor sponsored by the Department of Justice with the goal of disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations by combining the resources and unique expertise of federal agencies, and local law enforcement.
Officers seized approximately five pounds of methamphetamine and five firearms during the course of this investigation. Wednesday’s operation included the execution of 11 federal search warrants and three state search warrants, at residential and business locations in Bloomfield, Farmington, and in San Juan County. Additionally a fully automatic Glock 19, a short-barreled rifle, a carbine rifle with a damaged serial number, four blasting caps, four small binary explosives, and approximately 31.7 grams of methamphetamine were confiscated as a result of Wednesday’s activities. Rick Tedrow said, “Today’s successful arrests and confiscation of drugs and firearms was a skillful collaboration of many dedicated law enforcement officers whose tireless efforts over the past 13 months have assisted our community in its desire to have safer streets.”
“This operation is important for the safety and well-being of our citizens. It is essential that we eradicate this terrible scourge of drugs and those who foster and get gain from it in our community. The fight on drugs is real and we must win,” said Aztec Police Chief Michael Heal. San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen added, “I am proud of the efforts of the Region II agents and HSI agents who put this case together. This partnership from state, local and federal agencies is an example of what can be accomplished when we work together to make our communities safer.” DA Tedrow, Sheriff Christesen and Chief Heal are all on the board of directors at San Juan Safe Communities Initiative (SJSCI).
Thirteen of the defendants, including Isaac Anaya, are facing federal charges in a 15-count federal indictment alleging a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in San Juan County. Those individuals charged with conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine, distribution of methamphetamine, and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $1,000,000 fine if convicted. The remaining 16 defendants are facing state drug trafficking and firearms charges.
“HSI continues to work vigilantly with our law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking networks that smuggle and traffic vile drugs, such as methamphetamine,” said Dennis Ulrich (HSI). “Methamphetamine destroys lives and devastates communities, and HSI special agents are committed to preventing drugs from coming across our border and poisoning our neighborhoods.”
Lt. Neil Haws (Reg. II) said, “I want to thank all of the participating agencies who assisted in today’s operation. HSI and the US Attorney’s Office have shown a continuing commitment to our community. I am very proud to have worked alongside the HSI and Region II agents who worked this case for the past year. This has been a very successful operation that will have a significant impact on our community.” Lt. Haws is a member of SJSCI and a regular contributor of drug trend updates to the board of directors.
A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office acknowledges the following for their work in this coordinated effort:
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Albuquerque Office
The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office (SJCSO)
HIDTA Region II Narcotics Task Force (Reg. II)
Bloomfield Police Department
Farmington Police Department
Aztec Police Department
US Attorney’s Office
11th Judicial District Attorneys of New Mexico
US Marshals Service
US Customs and Border Protection
New Mexico State Police
New Mexico Attorney General’s Office
By: Greg Allen
San Juan Safe Communities Initiative