ALBUQUERQUE – Rolando Cantu, 40, of Hobbs, N.M., was sentenced this morning in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to 151 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release for his conviction on a methamphetamine trafficking charge.
Cantu was one of five defendants charged as the result of an investigation primarily targeting a drug trafficking organization operating in Lea County, N.M., allegedly headed by co-defendant Leroy Castillo, 34, of Hobbs, N.M. The investigation was led by the FBI and Lea County Drug Task Force (LCDTF) with assistance from the DEA and New Mexico State Police. It 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.
Cantu was arrested in July 2014, and charged in a seven-count indictment filed in June 2014. The indictment also charged co-defendants Castillo, Joe Padilla, 34, of Hobbs, Mario Flores, 30, of Artesia, N.M., and Anthony Pisana, 30, of Roswell, N.M. Count 1 charged the four men with participation in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy from Feb. 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 defendants with using telephones to facilitate drug trafficking crimes in Feb., March and April 2016.
Cantu pled guilty on March 24, 2015, to County 3 of the indictment charging him with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. In his plea agreement, Cantu admitted that on March 8, 2014, law enforcement officers seized 76.2 grams of methamphetamine from inside a truck parked at his residence. Cantu further admitted that he intended to distribute the methamphetamine that was found inside the truck.
With the exception of Castillo, all defendants charged in this case have pleaded guilty. Castillo has yet to be arrested and is considered a fugitive. Individuals with information regarding the whereabouts of Castillo are asked to call the FBI at 505-622-6001. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was 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. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terri L. Abernathy and Shaheen P. Torgoley.
The Lea County Drug Task Force is comprised of officers from the Lea County Sheriff’s Office, Hobbs Police Department, Lovington Police Department, Eunice Police Department the Tatum Police Department and the Jal Police Department, and is part of the HIDTA Region VI Drug Task Force. The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program was created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. HIDTA is a program of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) which provides assistance to federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States and seeks to reduce drug trafficking and production by facilitating coordinated law enforcement activities and information sharing.