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Thursday, April 14, 2022

Ruiz Sentenced On Federal Drug Charges; Murder Trial Slated For June

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

One of 12 people charged with drug trafficking offenses following raids by federal agents in the summer of 2019 has been sentenced. The federal sentencing allows for Marcos R. Ruiz to go on trial for murder in Las Vegas.

During a March 23 hearing in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, Ruiz, 42, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release for possession and distribution of controlled substances.

Ruiz had accepted a plea agreement in July of 2021, but he was not sentenced until late last month. He could have received a maximum of 24 years in prison and fines up to $1.25 million.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Ruiz pleaded guilty to two counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and one count of unlawful use of a communication facility for using a telephone to “facilitate the commission of a drug felony,” according to the plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court.

Ruiz is, so far, the only person to be sentenced in the case that resulted from a monthslong investigation by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The FBI portion of the operation targeted several members and associates of the Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico — or SNM, an often violent prison gang — while the DEA operation targeted Robert Corbin Padilla, a man alleged to be the kingpin of a drug trafficking organization that operated in Las Vegas and Albuquerque.

Federal agents alleged that Padilla’s Las Vegas operation was deeply intertwined with members and associates of SNM.

The investigation culminated with raids on 12 homes and a bank in the Las Vegas area. Search warrant affidavits filed in U.S. District Court show that Ruiz, an alleged SNM associate, was under investigation by the DEA and the FBI for months prior to the raids, and that agents had been tracking the activities of Padilla for years. Agents also considered Ruiz to be one of Padilla’s drug distributors and his “enforcer” in Las Vegas, according to the affidavits.

During the investigation, federal authorities obtained warrants for several wiretaps and began monitoring phone and text message conversations on six cell phones used by Padilla. During a March 15, 2019, phone call, Padilla and Ruiz discussed cooking a batch of crack cocaine.

As part of the plea agreement, Ruiz admitted to taking part in that phone call and talking about botching the production of crack, speaking about five ounces of powder cocaine and to distributing two ounces of powder cocaine to another person.

In addition to serving 18 months in prison, Ruiz was ordered to pay a special penalty assessment of $300 and agreed to enter a substance abuse treatment program under the supervision of a probation officer. He is also required to participate in a mental health treatment program, also under the supervision of a probation officer.

Ruiz is not allowed to purchase, possess, distribute or use any drugs that “impair physical or mental functioning.” He is barred from using or possessing alcohol as well. He must also submit to substance abuse testing, and he could be asked to submit to alcohol testing.

Murder trial set

The federal sentencing clears the way for state prosecutors to try Ruiz on charges of first-degree murder in the August 2019 death of 42-year-old Marcos “Mark” Carrillo.

Ruiz is accused of shooting and killing Carrillo, and of shooting and wounding Gilbert Montoya, 39 at the time, on Aug. 3, 2019.

Officers with the Las Vegas Police Department responded to a home in the 500 block of Perez Street just after 6:30 p.m. that summer evening and found Montoya lying on a couch, bleeding from at least one gunshot wound.

When officers asked Montoya who shot him, he responded “nobody shot me,” according to LVPD incident reports obtained by the Optic through a records request. A woman at the home told police that Montoya had shown up at the door with gunshot wounds, and that he’d said Ruiz shot him.

Within a half hour of responding to the house on Perez Street, officers were called to Ruiz’s home in the 600 block of Union Street where they found Carrillo dead on the living room floor.

During an interview with New Mexico State Police, Montoya said he’d been at Ruiz’s home when Carrillo and Ruiz began “wrestling on the couch.” Montoya told police that Ruiz had a gun in his hand.

After hearing a gunshot, Montoya attempted to run out a back door, but it was locked, according to police incident reports. Montoya heard Ruiz call for him, and when Montoya turned around, he saw three flashes from the gun. Though he’d been shot, Montoya managed to run from the home, escaping from a side door.

Ruiz was arrested on Aug. 26, 2019, and charged with first-degree murder. In January 2020, Ruiz was transferred to federal custody.

Now that the federal case against Ruiz has come to a conclusion, he will be transferred from the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service to the San Miguel County Detention Center before the murder trial begins, according to Fourth Judicial District Attorney Tom Clayton.

“Once they’re done, we will take physical custody of him,” Clayton said. “I’ve already contacted Warden (Antonio) Padilla to let him know that we’ll be bringing him back.”

Clayton said that although Montoya testified during a preliminary hearing, he has refused to testify in the upcoming trial.

“He’s the state’s primary witness, but he’s decided not to cooperate,” Clayton said. “He has made it abundantly clear that he is not going to cooperate.”

Clayton’s office plans to proceed to trial even without Montoya’s cooperation. A 10-day trial is scheduled to begin June 6 in District Court in Las Vegas.

Ruiz is charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

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