Investigators: State police officer connected to gun trafficking scheme
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Federal investigators allege a New Mexico State Police officer is connected to a gun trafficking scheme that involved law enforcement officials helping sellers illegally acquire fully-automatic rifles in order to sell them.
The state police sergeant is referred to as an armorer and is not named.
Last month, a federal indictment outlined a far-reaching, nationwide criminal ATF case spanning at least four states and including charges for at least six people.
Investigators believe the state police officer, along with Manny Gonzales – who was the Bernalillo County Sheriff at the time – and Gonzales’ former undersheriff Rudy Mora, were helping to request more than 1,000 guns.
They are not facing criminal charges, but investigators say the three played important roles, using their positions to make requests for demonstrations, which can only come from law enforcement. The requests helped gun sellers get restricted, fully-automatic guns, which the federal government classifies as machine guns.
No one intended for those guns to end up with those law enforcement agencies. The goal was to sell them, often for $10,000 or more, according to investigators.
The search warrant includes an image that investigators say is one of the requests from New Mexico State Police on Department of Public Safety letterhead.
A New Mexico State Police spokesperson says they can’t release the officer’s name because the investigation is ongoing, but they say the sergeant is still employed with NMSP.
They added that they take any accusations seriously, and “If any of our personnel engaged in inappropriate or criminal behavior, it will be dealt with swiftly.”
The current Bernalillo County Sheriff got in front of cameras after the news first broke about former sheriff Manny Gonzales.
“It’s not acceptable. That’s not something that we need. (That’s not) how we build public trust,” BCSO Sheriff John Allen said. “Even before I took office, it was always a concern of mine, on what any administration would do previously and what we don’t know about.”
Investigators believe the gun shop owners – who were in multiple states – were the brains behind the scheme.
That includes an Albuquerque man, James Tafoya, who’s facing federal charges that could lead to 30 years in prison. A judge released him to await his trial.
It’s still not known whether investigators have evidence that any of the guns made it to New Mexico.
KOB 4 reached out to the other people in New Mexico who are allegedly involved, but did not hear back Sunday.
KOB 4 also did not hear back Sunday from a spokesperson for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The TV station reached out to her office because the Department of Public Safety is a part of her administration.
In the search warrant, investigators describe other evidence and what they’ve found in busts in other parts of the country in the case. They say one seller asked for 72 guns for the police department in Ray, North Dakota, which has one sworn officer. Investigators say they found a gun collection valued at a million dollars in one bust in North Carolina.
According to the search warrant, the evidence shows the goal of the trafficking operation was to sell the guns mostly to collectors. Many of the guns are rare and expensive, and the sellers were importing many of them from overseas.