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Eight San Juan County residents are facing federal narcotics trafficking charges as the result of a multi-agency investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the HIDTA Region II Narcotics Task Force into methamphetamine trafficking on the Navajo Indian Reservation in northwestern New Mexico.

Six of the eight defendants were arrested yesterday during a law enforcement operation that included the execution of two search warrants at residences in Shiprock and Kirtland. The six defendants who were arrested made their initial appearances in federal court in Farmington, this morning.

Their arraignment hearings, which will take place in federal court in Albuquerque, have yet to be scheduled.

The investigation leading to the federal charges was initiated in response to an increase in methamphetamine trafficking on the Navajo Indian Reservation in the Shiprock area. The investigation identified eight defendants, who are charged in five indictments, through a series of methamphetamine purchases by undercover law enforcement officers. Law enforcement authorities seized more than two and a half pounds of methamphetamine, ten firearms, approximately $1,600 in cash and a vehicle during yesterday’s operation.

The investigation was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program. This Department of Justice program 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.

“Methamphetamine continues to have a devastating impact on Native American families and communities,” said U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez. “This investigation is an example of how federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies are working together to improve the safety of Native American communities and increase awareness of the dangers of methamphetamine.”

“HSI special agents have worked tirelessly the past year along with our partners to develop this investigation,” said Special Agent in Charge Waldemar Rodriguez of HSI El Paso. “These arrests demonstrate our resolve to identify and dismantle transnational organizations no matter where they attempt to hide.”

“We are very pleased to see the hard work of this joint investigation come to completion,” said Operations Sergeant Kevin Burns of the HIDTA Region II Narcotics Task Force. “We are confident the efforts of this investigation will make this community safer and hold narcotic traffickers accountable in San Juan County.”

The investigation resulted in the filing of indictments in the following federal cases: The seven-count indictment filed in United States v. Arce, et al., 16-CR-1433 JAP, charges Miguel Rangel-Arce, 36, Luis Rangel-Arce, 44, and Rogelio Santiago Quiroa-Valdez with participating in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy between Nov. 2015 and March 2016, and with distributing methamphetamine on six occasions between Jan. 2016 and March 2016. The three defendants are Mexican nationals who have been residing in San Juan County.

Miguel Rangel-Arce and Quiroa-Valdez were arrested yesterday. Luis Rangel-Arce has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive.

If convicted, the defendants face the following statutory penalties: Miguel Rangel-Arce faces a mandatory minimum of ten years and a maximum of life in prison; Luis Rangel-Arce faces a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison; Quiroa-Valdez faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. The three men also face deportation if convicted. The indictment filed in United States v. Ruiz, et al., 16-CR-1432 WJ, charges Manuel Ruiz, 45, and Troy Begay, 36, both of Kirtland, with distributing methamphetamine in March 2016. Begay was arrested yesterday. Ruiz has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive. If convicted, Ruiz and Begay each face a statutory penalty of a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison.

The indictment filed in United States v. Dennison, 16-CR- 1431 JCH, charges Lewayne Dennison, 38, of Fruitland, N.M., with distributing methamphetamine in Oct. 2015. Dennison was arrested yesterday. If convicted, Dennison faces a statutory penalty of a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison.

The indictment filed in United States v. Castor, et al., 16-CR- 1430 JCH, charges Kirk Castor, 35, of Kirtland, with distributing methamphetamine on two occasions in April 2015. Castor was arrested yesterday. If convicted, Castor faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The indictment filed in United States v. Begay, 16-CR-1429 JCH, charges George Begay, 47, of Fruitland, with distributing methamphetamine in April 2014. Begay was arrested yesterday. If convicted, Begay faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.