ALBUQUERQUE – Christopher J. Cleveland, 36, a resident of Las Cruces, N.M., was sentenced today in federal court to 120 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for his conviction on methamphetamine trafficking charges. Cleveland’s conviction was based on his June 9, 2015, guilty plea.
Cleveland and his codefendant Eric G. Acosta, 29, also of Las Cruces, were arrested in July 2014, on a criminal complaint charging them with methamphetamine trafficking and firearms charges. According to the complaint, during a routine traffic stop on June 23, 2014, officers of the Las Cruces Police Department discovered 889.2 grams of methamphetamine, a firearm and drug paraphernalia inside a vehicle driven by Acosta and in which Cleveland was a passenger. The complaint stated that Cleveland and Acosta had traveled from Arizona, where they obtained the methamphetamine, to Las Cruces in Doña Ana County, N.M., where they intended to distribute the drugs.
In an indictment filed on Oct. 16, 2014, Acosta and Cleveland were charged with participation in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. The indictment also charged each of the two men with being felons in possession of firearms. The two men were charged with committing these crimes on June 23, 2014, in Doña Ana County. At the time, Acosta and Cleveland each was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because each had previously been convicted a felony offense.
On May 14, 2015, Acosta pled guilty to the conspiracy charge, the substantive methamphetamine trafficking charge, and to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Acosta was sentenced on June 7, 2016, to ten years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release.
This case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of the FBI and the HIDTA Regional Interagency Drug Task Force/Metro Narcotics Task Force and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maria Y. Armijo and Selesia Lee Winston of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.
The HIDTA Regional Interagency Drug Task Force/Metro Narcotics Task Force is comprised of officers from the Las Cruces Police Department, the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, HSI and the New Mexico State Police. 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.