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Northern New Mexico's Spanish American Drug Cartel

Albuquerque Journal
By Brendan Smith
Journal Staff Writer
February 7, 2001

The Albuquerque Journal reported that more than 200 law-enforcement officers mounted an early morning raid Wednesday that targeted three suspected cocaine-trafficking rings in Taos County. The task force arrested a total of 53 people on state or federal charges and believe another 17 suspects remain at large.

"This (bust) will shake this community up," said Taos Police Chief Neil Curran. "Half of the crimes they have committed is from cocaine and crack cocaine abuse. It's all connected." U.S. Attorney Norman Bay claims the three drug rings are suspected of distributing high-purity kilograms of cocaine in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

The arrests, made after a yearlong investigation that likely cost tax payers millions, is the largest ever conducted by the Region III Narcotics Task Force -- a law enforcement coalition created in 1989 consisting of agencies throughout four northern New Mexico counties.

There have been no reports of injuries to officers, citizens or the defendants. It is nicotine, not cocaine that poses the greatest threat to our society [complete story].

New Mexico map

Northern New Mexico's Spanish American Drug Cartel (alleged):
Vicki Sandoval, 37, of Questa;
Talmage Dirk Neal, 46, Red River;
Brandon Bailon, 30, Questa;
Francisco Ortiz, 24, Costilla;
Christa Gallegos, 24, Questa;
Tomas Gallegos, 47, Questa;
Cristobal Montoya, 44, Questa;
Steve Lucero, 52, Amalia;
Glenn Santistevan, 41, Questa;
Andy Ortiz, 33, Questa;
Ronald Conrad Garcia, 39, Questa;
Allen Hickam, also known as Handy, 45, Questa;
Deborah Baca, 46, Cerro;
Theodore Vigil, 28, Questa;
Robert Lonnie Lovato, 41, Questa;
Virgil Gomez, 52, Questa;
Jimmy Martinez, 41, Cerro;
Joseph M. Sanchez; 20, Arroyo Hondo;
Steven Archuleta, 46, Cerro;
Alfonso Vigil, 59, Cerro;
Melquiades Rael, 23, Questa;
David Bailon, 33, Questa;
Pedro Garcia, also known as Elises Anaya, age unknown, of El Prado;
Jerome Gonzales, age unknown, Questa;
Raymond Philip Martinez, 32, Taos;
Gary Flores, 27, Arroyo Hondo;
Armando Cesar Suarez-Morales, 25, Taos;
Gilbert Santistevan, 21, Questa;
Gabriel Quintana, 36, Questa; and
Melvin Salazar, 45, Cerro.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Albuquerque has not released the specific charges assigned each of the listed business personnel, but they range from cocaine and marijuana trafficking to distribution of marijuana and conspiracy.