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Joe Padilla, 34, of Hobbs, was sentenced this morning in federal court in Las Cruces to 151 months in federal prison followed by four years of supervised release for his conviction on narcotics trafficking charges.

Padilla was one of eight defendants charged as the result of an investigation primarily targeting a drug trafficking organization operating in Lea County that was allegedly led by co-defendant Leroy Castillo, 34, of Hobbs. The investigation by the FBI and Lea County Drug Task Force (LCDTF), with assistance from the DEA and New Mexico State Police, was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, a nationwide 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.

Padilla was arrested in February 2015 on an indictment charging him and co-defendants Castillo, Richard Armijo-Romero, 24, of Moriarity, Sergio Garza, 35, also of Hobbs, Ruben Estrada, 54, of Las Vegas, N.M., and Charlie Gutierrez, 35, of Albuquerque, with trafficking narcotics in Lea and Bernalillo counties between late April 2014 and early May 2014.

Count 1 of the seven-count indictment charged all six defendants with participating in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy in Lea County. Count 2 charged the six men with participating in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine in Bernalillo County on May 1, 2014. Counts 3 and 4 charged Castillo with possession of cocaine and heroin with intent to distribute on May 1, 2014, in Lea County, and Counts 5 and 6 charged Garza with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute on May 1, 2014. Count 7 charged Garza with using and carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime.

Padilla was also charged in a separate seven-count indictment filed in June 2014, along with co-defendants Castillo, Mario Flores, 30, of Artesia, Anthony Pisana, 30, of Roswell, and Rolando Cantu, 40, of Hobbs.

Count 1 of the indictment charged the four men with participation in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy from February 2014 through May 2014 in Lea County. Counts 2 and 3 charged certain defendants with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in Eddy and Lea counties in March 2014, and Counts 4 through 7 charged certain of the defendants with using telephones to facilitate drug trafficking crimes in February, March and April.

With the exception of Castillo, Padilla and all co-defendants have entered guilty pleas. Castillo, who has yet to be arrested, is considered a fugitive. Individuals with information regarding the whereabouts of Castillo are asked to call the FBI at 505-622-6001.

These cases were investigated by the Las Cruces, Roswell and Albuquerque Offices of the FBI and the LCDTF, with assistance from the Las Cruces Office of the DEA, the New Mexico State Police, and the Phoenix Police Department.