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Three Las Cruces Residents Facing Federal Charges In Alleged Drug Operation

Sep 9, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE – A federal grand jury in Las Cruces, N.M., returned an indictment on August 21, 2019, charging three Las Cruces residents, Martin Peña Astorga, 53, Jessie Adel Dunlap, 34, and Alejandra Gomez, 31, with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and other offenses in an alleged distribution scheme involving shipments of large quantities of drugs by mail.

Astorga and Dunlap made their initial appearances in federal court on August 30, 2019.  Gomez is currently in law enforcement custody awaiting transfer to New Mexico for her initial appearance. 

This case is the result of an investigation initiated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Las Cruces-Dona Ana County Metro Narcotics Agency into a criminal organization that allegedly utilized the United States Postal Service to ship and receive narcotics through the mail.  The year-long investigation focused on the organization’s sale of the deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl, in response to the rise of fentanyl overdoses in New Mexico and the emergence of fentanyl pills disguised as prescription oxycodone.  

The indictment charges all three defendants with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, including methamphetamine, fentanyl, and heroin.  The indictment also charges Astorga with 1 count of distribution of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, 1 count of distribution of 5 grams or more of methamphetamine, 4 counts of distribution of fentanyl, and 2 counts of distribution of heroin.  The indictment further charges Astorga and Dunlap with 1 count of possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin and one count of possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl.  The indictment further charges Astorga and Gomez with 1 count of using a communication facility to further the commission of a drug trafficking crime.  The indictment further charges Gomez with 1 count of possession with intent to distribute 5 grams or more of methamphetamine.

According to court documents, the alleged crimes occurred between August 24, 2018, and August 21, 2019.  On several different occasions, Astorga allegedly distributed methamphetamine, fentanyl, and heroin to an undercover agent posing as a drug customer.  Astorga also allegedly arranged numerous drug transactions by telephone and text message, including coordinating the shipment of drugs through the mail.  In one conversation, Astorga allegedly asked Gomez to “make some cash” by re-selling drugs Astorga previously supplied to her.  Astorga and Dunlap allegedly traveled to Colorado to obtain supplies of drugs for distribution in New Mexico.  Gomez allegedly possessed about 5 grams of methamphetamine on her person when police stopped her on May 28, 2019.  Dunlap allegedly possessed about 124 grams of heroin and 480 fentanyl pills in her purse when police stopped her and Astorga in a vehicle on June 20, 2019. 

The defendants are awaiting trial at a future date.  Astorga faces from 10 years to life in prison for conspiracy and distribution of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.  He faces from 5 to 40 years in prison for distribution of 5 grams or more of methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, and possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl.  Astorga faces up to 20 years in prison for distribution of fentanyl and heroin.  Gomez faces from 5 to 40 years in prison for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute 5 grams or more of methamphetamine.  Dunlap faces from 5 to 40 years in prison for conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, and possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl.  Astorga and Gomez also face up to 4 years in prison for using a communications facility in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  An indictment is only an allegation.  The defendants are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The Drug Enforcement Administration investigated this case with the Las Cruces-Dona Ana County Metro Narcotics Agency, Homeland Security Investigations, the Las Cruces Police Department, and the New Mexico State Police.  This investigation was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, a Department of Justice Program that combines the resources and unique expertise of federal agencies, along with their local counterparts, in a coordinated effort to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Clara N. Cobos and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Solis of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office are prosecuting the case. 

Information from Department of Justice