Defendants Among the 104 Individuals Federally Charged as a Result of ATF-Led Investigation Pursued in Support of Federal “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative
ALBUQUERQUE – Two more Albuquerque residents pled guilty today in federal court to violating federal drug trafficking and firearms laws. Mike Jensen, 33, pled guilty to violating federal firearms laws, and Bernadette Aurora Tapia (Tapia), 48, pled guilty to a methamphetamine trafficking charge.
Jensen and Tapia were arrested during an ATF-led investigation that resulted in the filing of 59 federal indictments and one federal criminal complaint charging 104 Bernalillo County residents with federal firearms and narcotics trafficking offenses. The investigation began in mid-April 2016, when ATF personnel from throughout the country joined forces with federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies in New Mexico to combat the high rate of violent crime in the Albuquerque metropolitan area. The investigators utilized a number of investigative techniques, including undercover operations, historical investigation and targeting of multi-convicted felons in possession of firearms.
The investigation was undertaken in support of 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 collaborate with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution primarily based on their prior criminal convictions with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.
Jensen was arrested in July 2016, on an indictment charging him with methamphetamine trafficking and firearms charges. The indictment was subsequently superseded on Aug. 9, 2016, to include a co-defendant, Michael Ryan Prost, 36. The superseding indictment charged Jensen and Prost with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine from May 9, 2016 through May 25, 2016, and distributing methamphetamine on May 9, 2016. Jensen was charged individually with possession of a stolen firearm and carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime on May 9, 2016, and distributing methamphetamine on May 25, 2016. Today, Jensen pled guilty to carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime. In entering the guilty plea, Jensen admitted that on May 9, 2016, he possessed a firearm in relation to the distribution of more than 50 grams of methamphetamine.
Tapia and her co-defendants Gaspar Leal, 46, Brandon Candelaria, 21, and Candace Tapia, 21, were charged by indictment on July 12, 2016, with conspiracy and distribution of methamphetamine on June 8, 2016, in Bernalillo County. Today, Tapia pled guilty to conspiracy and admitted that on June 8, 2016, she agreed with others to distribute methamphetamine to another person.
At sentencing, Jensen faces a statutory minimum penalty of five years in federal prison. Tapia faces a statutory minimum penalty of five years and a maximum of 40 years in federal prison. Both remain in custody pending sentencing hearings which have yet to be scheduled.
To date, 19 of the 104 defendants charged as a result of the ATF investigation have entered guilty pleas. The remaining defendants, including Jensen’s and Tapia’s co-defendants, have entered not guilty pleas. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
These cases were investigated by the Albuquerque office of ATF. The case against Jensen and Prost is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Han, and the case against Tapia, Leal, Candelaria and Candace Tapia is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel A. Hurtado.