Law Enforcement Problems In New Mexico

Law enforcement in New Mexico is having some problems.   

A man accused of shooting another man and sexually molesting a child in Albuquerque last year was an active U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informer who was improperly supervised, a new lawsuit alleges.

The family of Jason Estrada recently filed a $50 million lawsuit against the U.S. DEA, the second suit in recent months alleging problems with the DEA’s handling of informants, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

Edward Quintana, 31, has been charged with killing Estrada. He also is charged with criminal sexual penetration of a child under 13.  He has pleaded not guilty in both cases and is being held on a $600,000 bond.

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Albuquerque police said Estrada was killed when he confronted Quintana over the sexual assaults of a child.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque said the office had no comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit and attached documents show Quintana became an informant for the agency in 2011 after Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant on his home and seized nine ounces of heroin, $12,000 and three loaded semi-automatic handguns.

Another lawsuit filed last month said DEA agents also paid a struggling addict in crack cocaine during an undercover investigation into a Las Vegas, New Mexico, drug operation.

Erlinda Ocampo Johnson, attorney for Aaron Romero, said the 38-year-old was unknowingly targeted during an undercover investigation because he was a struggling addict and did not know he was helping agents break up the drug ring.

A northern New Mexico sheriff who has had brushes with scandal throughout his career has been indicted for civil right violations and falsifying documents.

U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez announced Rio Arriba County Sheriff Thomas Rodella and his son, Thomas, Jr., were arrested in their Espanola home early Friday for their role in a March traffic stop that injured a motorist.

The indictment says the men engaged “in a high-speed pursuit and unreasonable seizure” of a motorist.  Court documents say the sheriff was not in uniform when he jumped out of his Jeep SUV armed with a silver revolver and assaulted the victim.  Martinez says both men then falsified documents related to the case.

Both men pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.

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