Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Columbus, NM Mayor, Police Chief Indicted On Drugs, Weapons Allegations

Thursday, March 10, 2011 |

By ABC-7 Web Producer Leonard Martinez


The mayor and police chief of the Village of Columbus, N.M., were among city officials indicted Thursday morning on allegations of firearms violations and drug trafficking.

The defendants charged in the 84-count indictment include Angelo Vega, the Columbus chief of police; Eddie Espinoza, the mayor of Columbus; and Blas Gutierrez, a village trustee in Columbus.

Ten of the eleven defendants were arrested without incident this morning by teams of federal, state and local law enforcement officers, and will make their initial appearances Friday in the federal courthouse in Las Cruces. Defendant Ignacio Villalobos has not been apprehended and is considered a fugitive, according to the U.S. attorney's office in New Mexico. The officers also executed ten search warrants at eight residences, one business establishment, and at the office of the Columbus Police Department.

The indictment is the result of an intensive year-long investigation initiated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), that later expanded to include the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.

The indictment alleges that, between January 2010 and March 2011, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to purchase firearms for illegal export to Mexico. During this 14-month period, the defendants allegedly purchased approximately 200 firearms from Chaparral Guns in Chaparral, New Mexico, which is owned and operated by defendant Ian Garland. According to the indictment, the defendants purchased firearms favored by the Mexican Cartels, including AK-47-type pistols, weapons resembling AK-47 rifles but with shorter barrels and without rear stocks, and American Tactical 9 mm caliber pistols. The defendants allegedly obtained firearms from Chaparral Guns by falsely claiming they were the actual purchasers of the firearms, when in fact they were acting as “straw purchaser” who were buying the firearms on behalf of others.


During the investigation, law enforcement officers seized 40 AK-47 type pistols, 1,580 rounds of 7.62 ammunition, and 30 high-capacity magazines from the defendants before they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. The indictment alleges that twelve firearms previously purchased by the defendants later were found in Mexico and were traced back to these defendants. As part of the investigation, every effort was made to seize firearms from defendants to prevent them from entering into Mexico, and no weapons were knowingly permitted to cross the border.

The Luna County Sheriff's Department has restricted the Columbus Police Department - which consists of four police officers - from using their radio frequencies and databases to maintain integrity, Cobos said. Cobos was heading to the Columbus City Hall on Thursday morning to talk to the remaining city council trustee members about the situation.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) El Paso spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa confirmed their agents were involved in the ongoing investigation in Columbus and that Drug Enforcement Administration and Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agents were assisting in the operation.

"Violation of public trust is probably one of the most heinous crimes that can be perpetrated on the public," Cobos said. "I mean it's horrible....it affects everybody, everybody feels it. I know my officers feel it.The reaction I have and my department and probably other elected and public officials is the reaction of dismay. We're disheartened this occurred but basically what I have to do is make sure I reinforce the feeling that public safety is going to be maintained in Columbus regardless of whatever the circumstances are."

Espinoza had placed Vega and another Village of Columbus employee on administrative leave on Nov. 22 because of "budgetary concerns," according to a Deming Headlight report in November. In mid-January, Columbus trustees reinstated Vega as police chief while Espinoza was on a trip to Albuquerque because no action had been taken, according to an Associated Press article in January.

Columbus has had eight police chiefs since March 2006.

In 1996, when Vega was a Lincoln County deputy sheriff, he was indicted on charges of extortion and intimidating a witness. A plea agreement reduced those charges to a misdemeanor, and Vega was placed on probation.

Columbus, which lies just a few miles across the border from Palomas, Mexico, sees tourists attracted by Villa's raid on March 9, 1916 - 95 years ago Wednesday. The isolated town of about 1,800 is the site of Pancho Villa State Park, which houses exhibits about the raid and the U.S. Army's subsequent unsuccessful 11-month expedition into Mexico to chase down Villa.

An estimated 500 to 600 revolutionaries had attacked Columbus before dawn, setting buildings in the business district on fire. Soldiers with the 13th Calvary at Camp Furlong, on the outskirts of Columbus, set up machine guns in the town to fight Villa's forces.

The raid lasted until dawn and left 18 Americans dead, most of them civilians. Some 70 to 75 revolutionaries also died.PrintEmail

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17 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

Mexico nor the U.S. has enough prisons or money to house all of these animals... I say start killing them all and grind them up to use as asphalt filler in roads and highways...

Smurf said...

Just posted this on my own blog...

This is nothing new to me, I have always felt there is no way drugs and weapons get shipped cross country and over sovereign borders without help from local law enforcement.

The question is, how can it be avoided? On the U.S. side it is a lucrative business to "Straw Purchase" weapons... The police chief seems like a crook, at least according to this article... But how the F did the mayor get involved on such a grunt level with this? Real dumb to purchase the weapons yourself and put them on the black market...

Makes you wonder what kind of other B.S. these people were into...

Anonymous said...

Hey Smurf question, where can I find your blog? Whats the website? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Columbus has been crooked for decades. I'm surprised it took this long for someone to get caught.

''lito'brito said...

these fuckwads should be tried as traidores and shot

Anonymous said...

And now it begins in the US... Wait til we catch a US cop kidnapping someone.

Smurf said...

5:59

Its 3rdrockpress.wordpress.com

Thanks for the interest.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a racist bone in my body, but lets face it...Nearly everytime we catch someone like this, it turns out to be someone of Latin decent. I'm in the corporate world and now upper management in many companies is Indian, Chinese etc. Guess what!! They take their corruption and tactics learned in their native countries and apply it here. Not all, but many!! yes I'm well aware many bad white bread Americans out there, but as foreign people continue to climb the ladder here mind you with the social help our our government via Minority/Diversity employment and supplier programs, this will be the result. Higher crime, higher corruption....Again, I don't frown upon anyone...I'm a minority myself, but this is the reality.

Smurf said...

Dont kid yourself, 8:00

White folks just as corrupt, look at labor disputes and construction schemes, Wall Street execs who make money when you lose yours (Bernie Madoff and Enron, not to mention the Savings and Loans scandals)...

I mean really, there is PLENTY of corruption without injecting race into the conversations

Anonymous said...

Smurf, actually I make money when greedy Wall Streeters are doing well :-) It's not about race, it's about what's learned in one's native country and what's acceptable. It's not finger pointing or isolating one particular group, but trust me..in my line of work Indians are on executive boards now and they are awarding inflated contracts to Indian companies even outside the US for more than dealing with a US based firm....this is going way off topic. Hey I agree about greedy Unions, but look who's out there defending them.....Jesse Jackson and fat ass Mike Moore....It's the likes of them combined with people coming from corrupt societies that will speed up our destruction or downfall. I see it daily....Landscape company run by an American cost more to hire than a rag tag company run by Mexican, but when you look closer, the American guy has "insurance" and is charging tax. The Mexican guy does not. Again not all, but corrupt on a small scale. Loads of examples....I guess I was reminded of that article about 16 US Citizens arrested for transporting drugs/money to and from Mexico, but then every single one had a Hispanic last name......I'm not angry or anti anyone, but these are facts that should be brought to surface.

Anonymous said...

Amen Smurf. I will be checking your blog too. You must be jumping to cover two blogs.

The border area, and I mean 20 miles on either side, has always been a dangerous no-mans-land to me. When I lived in DF in the 60s-70s and traveled back and forth to the US I got through the border area as fast as I could. Dangerous, sketchy, threatening - on both sides. Man you know they are just as dirty on the US side because it's all about the money.

Keep up the good work BB.

Hey 8:00 - read the Wall Street Journal to balance your perception. Big time white crooks everyday all day. Saludos

porno said...

8:00 bullshit! corruption is everywhere, no matter what race you are, i live in a city called Yonkers, near NYC. when i was a young dude, i had to do community service for getting into a fight.
i went to work for the parks department(25 white guys,1 black and 3 hispanics) i spent 14 days with them, mostly with the white guys, everyday was about how to cheat the system, sleeping on the job, doing personal errands even placing bets with bookies. the white guys were just as seedy as anyone. stop watching fox news.

Anonymous said...

At 800- you are an idiot foolio. Latin decent? How about them rednecks from arizona and houston buying and selling the same shit to the cartels. Minute men militias are just involved in this to.

Anonymous said...

Why does everybody cry foul when ever somebody brings up the fact that American Latinos are deeply involved? You know what you sound like? Like the mexicans on the mexican blogs who are always crying about how it's not their fault, it's america's fault, we're the drug addicts, we're the ones importing the guns, it's all the gringo's fault...STOP! You are grown-ass men, why won't you admit you have a fuckin problem in your midst? Fuck, I don't know what's worst, listening to a mexican full of false pride bad-mouth America and everybody living in it or an american latino full of false pride who thinks it's everybody else' fault except theirs. Funny how both Mexicans and Americans of latin descent love to point the finger at anybody who's not of brown skin. I think this false pride thing exists on both sides of the border like a plague. Pinches mamones! No valen verga.

'lito'brito said...

of course latinos are gonna be involved...they share a common heritage with Mexico...

if Canada was a big smuggling country like Mexico you could expect germans and nordics from Minnesota to be heavily involved in the crime

during alcohol prohibition, the german americans and dutch ,polish WERE all into smuggling booze from Windsor Canada into the USA ..through Detroit Michigan



it is not racist to tell the truth...fuck PC bullshit...the facts are the facts

Anonymous said...

latins are involved with this shit, but so is everyone else. When you start blaming certain people, you're dumb ass is going to be reoriented with what is going on. Mexicans, whites, blacks, asians, etc., are all involved. America just loves to get high cabron

Ardent said...

Kind of hilarious really to listen to USA USA flag waving types talk bad about Mexico and point their weasel fingers at Latinos for supposedly monopolizing the world in corruption. And here we sit pretty in the US which is sacred center of our planet's Big Business of corruption, business farts and politicians OKing all the Pentagon graft through our tax monies stolen away to the trillions of $$$$$. It's Bizarro World USA! Please let me reincarnate in another solar system! I've done my time here.

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