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Law enforcement with ATF and the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office conclude an arrest Tuesday at Allsup’s at 13th Street and Hermosa Drive as part of their undercover operation. (Teresa Lemon - Daily Press)

Law enforcement with ATF and the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office conclude an arrest Tuesday at Allsup’s at 13th Street and Hermosa Drive as part of their undercover operation. (Teresa Lemon – Daily Press)

Jesus Adam Perez

Jesus Adam Perez

Jackie Dean Brown III

Jackie Dean Brown III

A series of undercover investigations by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Pecos Valley Drug Task Force and Artesia Police Department have resulted in the filing of federal firearms and narcotics trafficking charges against 11 individuals.

Between Sept. 1 and 2, law enforcement engaged in a multi-agency operation in Eddy County, during which time seven of the federal defendants were arrested.

Two of the defendants – Jackie Dean Brown III, 34, of Artesia, and Jesus Adam Perez, 39, of McIntosh, N.M. – have yet to be apprehended and are considered fugitives.

One of the defendants, Dallas Ellis Hnulik, 27, of Artesia, is already in state custody after having been found guilty July 15 of second-degree murder in the 2010 shooting death of 32-year-old Brandy Capps of Artesia. He will be transferred to federal custody to face the charges against him.

The 11th defendant, Michael Todd Evans, 47, of Artesia, was killed Tuesday morning in the 1800 block of Feather Avenue during a shootout with officers as they attempted to serve the warrant against him.

Brown is charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition in January 2014 in Eddy County. If convicted, he faces a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Perez is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition by a person convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor and distributing marijuana in November 2014 in Eddy County and also faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Anyone with information as to these two fugitives’ whereabouts is asked to contact the ATF in Las Cruces at 575-522-0699.

Hnulik is charged with distributing methamphetamine on two occasions in June and July 2014 in Eddy County and faces a mandatory minimum penalty of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison.

The seven defendants taken into custody Sept. 1 and 2 and their charges include:

  • Victor R. Castillo, 36, of Artesia, charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and unlawful possession of an unregistered short-barreled shotgun in January in Eddy County. Castillo faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
  • Charles E. Gist, 56, of Artesia, charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and distribution of methamphetamine in November and December 2014 in Eddy County. Gist faces a minimum of five and maximum of 40 years in prison.
  • Albert Douglas Lotts, 36, of Artesia, charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition in January 2014 in Eddy County. Lotts faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
  • Floyd Albert Sherrell, 33, of Artesia, charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition and distributing methamphetamine in June 2014 in Eddy County. Sherrell faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the firearms charge and a minimum of five years and maximum of 40 years on the meth distribution charge.
  • Ronald Troy Bettencourt, 54, of Artesia, charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, being a felon in possession of explosives, and distribution of methamphetamine in January 2014 in Eddy County. Bettencourt faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the firearms and explosives counts and a minimum of five years and maximum of 40 years on the methamphetamine charge.
  • Jose Alfredo Villa, 34, of Lake Arthur, charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and distribution of methamphetamine in November and December 2014 in Eddy County. Villa faces a minimum of five and maximum of 40 years in prison.
  • Frederic Dodd, 39, of McIntosh, charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition in May 2014 in Eddy County. Dodd faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Evans was charged in the five-count indictment that included Bettencourt prior to his death.

Three Carlsbad residents were also arrested on state felony narcotics trafficking charges during the roundup, including Ricky Gauntt, 61, Leah Hayhurst, 29, and Amanda Lujan, 27.

During the course of the investigations, law enforcement officers seized or purchased 21 firearms and ammunition, 49-and-a-half sticks of dynamite, approximately 240.16 grams of methamphetamine, 1 pound of marijuana, and 33 tablets of prescription opioids.

The prosecutions of Bettencourt, Brown, Castillo and Hnulik are being pursued under a federal anti-violence initiative that targets the “worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution. Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from New Mexico’s communities for as long as possible.

This initiative recognizes that on a per-capita basis, New Mexico’s violent crime rates, including those of Eddy County, significantly exceed the national average.

The following agencies participated in the Sept. 1-2 operation: ATF, Pecos Valley Drug Task Force, Artesia Police Department, Carlsbad Police Department, Eddy County Sheriff’s Office, Lake Arthur Police Department, and the Probation and Parole Division of the New Mexico Corrections Department.