Friday, May 23, 2008

"Where is Dennis?"

You have probably been wondering "Where is Dennis?" because I have not added anything to this blog in ages. While the campaign has been very hectic, that is not the only reason. Right in the middle of the final month I have had to drop the campaign and return to my role of "crime fighter." I was subpoenaed to federal court to testify in a case from 13 years ago. The case was amazing in that it involved over 1100 pounds of cocaine, over a half a ton.

I spent a couple of days the week of May12th in Trial Preparation or "Trial Prep" at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Las Cruces. Then I returned to Las Cruces for a the trial which started May 19th. Now I am back in Roswell trying hard to play catch up with your calls, visits and e-mails. I owe people yard signs and will get them out while the supply lasts. I am working on the phone calls. Please be patient. I appreciate the offers of help. They mean a lot to me. Finally I will work on the e-mails. I will work to respond to your questions. Thanks again for your encouragement.

For those who want the details of this case, read on...

On June 1, 1995 units of the NMSP stopped two vehicles on hwy 70 about five miles west of Roswell. One vehicle was a Chevy S-10 Blazer pulling a Jayco pop-up trailer. The other was a blue Toyota pickup. The stop was the culmination of a multi-day surveillance by NMSP narcotics agents and Task Force officers from SE NM. The agents had been watching a residence in Las Cruces because they had developed information that a large load of cocaine would be transported from that location to Chicago. Officers watched the house for days and observed the coming and going of a number of people later identified as Richard Orosco, Danny Golay, Edwina Coddington, Rhonda Sieberlist and the boss Carlos Armendariz.

Armendariz was seen arriving at the residence (occupied by the others) driving a Chevy Celebrity accompanying a van driven by another person. The cocaine was in the van and was unloaded and sealed into fiberglass forms. These forms were then placed into the pop-up trailer and the group left late on the evening of May 31st. Surveillance observed the Toyota pickup in convoy with the load vehicle. It was a "scout vehicle" driven by Gerado Ocoha of Deming New Mexico.

When the vehicles were stopped at about 4:00 AM on Friday June 1st, the load vehicle was driven by Sieberlist and in the vehicle were Edwina Codding, her husband Richard Orosco, their 5 year old son and Danny Golay. Ochoa was alone in the "scout vehicle".

At 6:30 that morning I got a call from Agent K.C. Rogers, NMSP-Narcotics, who told me to come out to their office. He would not say why, "just come out." I came out and did not get home again until late Saturday evening. Once I got to the office and saw what they had, I contacted my DEA counterpart Special Agent Steve Woodson. My wife ended up bringing me an over night bag out at the state police office.

The load vehicle occupants, except for Sieberlist, admitted their involvement in the shipment. Sieberlist was Coddington's cousin and had been recruited to come on a trip without being told all the details. Based upon the statements of the others Siberlist was not charged. Ochoa denied any involvement.

K.C and the surveillance team were exhausted after five days of almost no sleep. At this point Steve Woodson and I headed to Las Cruces. This was fter we arranged to have the prisoners transported to Las Cruces and the dope hauled there too (by National Guard helicopter). Coddington made a consensually recorded call to Armendariz and told him they had been arrested. By this time Armendariz was back in Mexico where he would hide for the next 13 years.

When we arrived in Las Cruces we spent the night drafting search warrants for the house in Las Cruces and the home of the scout vehicle driver, 1312 Encanto Circle, Deming, NM. We also put together teams of agents to go to the two locations. I lead the team to Deming at 10:00AM Saturday morning. The team of DEA and FBI agents secured and searched the home of Gerado Ochoa. A number of records were seized but the two most important were a simple post-it note with "800" number and pin number for pagers used by the organization, as recorded in Coddington's address book and a rental unit contract for a self storage place in Mesa, AZ, in the name of Carlos Armnedariz.

Subsequently a search warrant was done on a trailer house used by Armendariz in Anthony, Texas. At that location fiberglass forms were found along with flatbed trailers with secret compartments in the bed. The fiberglass forms were designed to slip into the secret compartments.

Further investigation determined that Ochoa was encountered by law enforcement in Arkansas driving a red pickup (used previously by Richard Orosco) pulling flatbed trailers.
Ochoa took us to trial (everyone else pled guilty), and I was on the stand a total of almost eight hours spread over two days as the defense tried to suppress the search. The court upheld the search and Ocoha was convicted.

This became the beginning of a series of cases involving me, K.C. Rogers - NMSP and Steve Woodson - DEA. We worked with other guys from local task forces and we each had separate cases but the three of us from different agencies really clicked. Eventually Steve transferred to Wyoming, K.C. retired and then I retired. Suddenly from out of the blue Carlos Armendariz pops up and is arrested entering the U.S. (he is a U.S. Citizen by birth).

Steve, K.C and I all get called back to court. We spent days last week in trial prep and then the trial began Monday, May 19th. We all testified and Carlos was convicted.