Published: 6:16 pm, Wed. Feb. 17th, 2016
An Artesia woman pleaded guilty this afternoon in federal court in Las Cruces to a charge of money laundering relating to the recent methamphetamine trafficking investigation in Mescalero under which 34 individuals have been charged.
Jerilyn Munoz, 28, of Artesia, entered her plea to a money laundering conspiracy as part of a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The 34 charges were the result of an 18-month, multi-agency investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) into meth trafficking on the Mescalero Apache Reservation. Eighteen defendants, including five members of the Mescalero Apache tribe and 13 non-Natives, were charged in six federal indictments and one federal criminal complaint.
Sixteen other members of the Mescalero Apache tribe were charged in tribal criminal complaints approved by the Mescalero Apache Tribal Court.
Munoz was arrested Nov. 20, 2015, on an indictment charging her and seven other non-Natives with meth trafficking and money laundering offenses. Munoz is alleged to have participated in a meth trafficking conspiracy, participated in a money laundering conspiracy, and used a communications device – a telephone – to facilitate a drug trafficking crime.
In entering her guilty plea, Munoz admitted that between April 2015 and October 2015, she maintained a bank account used by another person to deposit the proceeds of drug trafficking crimes in order to conceal the proceeds. She also admitted the other individual deposited approximately $25,000 into her bank account during that period.
At sentencing, Munoz faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison followed by no more than three years of supervised release. Her sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Munoz is the second of the 18 federal defendants to enter a guilty plea. Wallace Rice, 23, an enrolled member of the Mescalero Apache Nation who resides in Mescalero, pleaded guilty to meth distribution Feb. 5.
The investigation was initiated in May 2014 in response to an increase in violent crime on the reservation perpetrated by meth users. Agents initially targeted a drug trafficking organization allegedly distributing meth within the reservation and later expanded to include two other trafficking organizations in southeastern New Mexico that allegedly served as sources of supply for the reservation activity.
In August 2014, the investigation was designated as part of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, which 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.
The investigation was one of the first OCDETF investigations to utilize electronic surveillance (wiretaps) in Indian Country. More than 10kg of meth were seized during the course of the investigation.