Thursday, March 3, 2016
Defendant is One of 34 Individuals Charged as Part of Investigation into Methamphetamine Trafficking on the Mescalero Apache Reservation
ALBUQUERQUE – Tandee Sheree Bettag, 38, of Alamogordo, N.M., pleaded guilty today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to methamphetamine trafficking charges under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Bettag was one of 34 individuals charged with federal and tribal drug offenses as the result of an 18-month multi-agency investigation led by the DEA and BIA into methamphetamine 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 a federal criminal complaint. Sixteen other members of the Mescalero Apache Tribe were charged in tribal criminal complaints approved by the Mescalero Apache Tribal Court.
The investigation leading to the federal and tribal charges was initiated in May 2014, in response to an increase in violent crime on the Mescalero Apache Reservation perpetrated by methamphetamine users. The investigation initially targeted a drug trafficking organization that was allegedly distributing methamphetamine within the Reservation, and later expanded to include two other drug trafficking organizations in southeastern New Mexico that allegedly served as sources of supply for the methamphetamine distributed within the Reservation. In Aug. 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 is one of the first OCDETF investigations to utilize electronic surveillance (wiretaps) in Indian Country. More than ten kilograms of methamphetamine were seized during the course of the investigation.
Bettag was arrested on Dec. 8, 2015, on an indictment charging her and seven other non-Natives with methamphetamine trafficking and money laundering offenses. The indictment charged Bettag with participation in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and use of a communication device to facilitate a drug trafficking crime.
During today’s proceedings, Bettag pled guilty to the charges against her in the indictment, and admitted that from Aug. 2015 through Sept. 2015, a codefendant provided her with methamphetamine which she distributed; she repaid her supplier with proceeds she obtained from selling the drugs. Bettag further admitted that on Aug. 15, 2015, she used text messaging to arrange the delivery of money to a codefendant to cover a drug debt and pick up additional methamphetamine, and on Aug. 17, 2015, she used text messaging to discuss, money for a drug transaction.
At sentencing, Bettag faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. She remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.
Bettag is the third of the 18 federal defendants to enter a guilty plea. On Feb. 17, 2016, Jerilyn Lee Munoz, 27, of Artesia, N.M., pled guilty to a money laundering conspiracy charge. In entering the guilty plea, Munoz admitted that between April 2015 and Oct. 2015, she maintained a bank account that was used by another person to deposit the proceeds of drug trafficking crimes in order to conceal the proceeds. Munoz admitted that the other person deposited approximately $25,000.00 into her bank account during that period. At sentencing, Munoz faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison followed by not more than three years of supervised release. Her sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Wallace Rice, 23, an enrolled member of the Mescalero Apache Nation who resides in Mescalero, N.M., pled guilty to a methamphetamine distribution charge on Feb. 5, 2016. At sentencing, Rice faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison followed by not less than three years of supervised release.
The remaining 15 federal defendants have entered not guilty pleas to the charges against them. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
The federal and tribal cases were investigated by the Las Cruces office of the DEA, District IV of the BIA’s Office of Justice Services (Mescalero Agency), BIA’s Division of Drug Enforcement, Mescalero Tribal Police Department, Hatch Police Department, FBI and Lea County Drug Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorney Terri J. Abernathy of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office is prosecuting the federal cases, and Mescalero Tribal Prosecutor Alta Braham is prosecuting the tribal cases.
Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico
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