They didn’t exactly nab a bunch of drug kingpins. Actually, it was far from it.
The reverse sting drug operation the Albuquerque Police Department engaged in earlier this month netted seven arrests of low-level drug users—some of them transients—and a total of $23.10, a tablet computer, cell phone, police radio, jacket and some colic medicine. The people who were arrested traded whatever little money they had and personal belongings for the drugs.
The operation, which was authorized by a state court judge, has drawn criticism community members and the New Mexico Public Defender’s Office, who said that going after low-level drug users is a waste of time and precious police resources. Rather than arresting the users, the cops should have taken them to a treatment center, they said.
Six people were charged with fourth-degree felonies during the sting. Most of those who were arrested spent between 24 hours to 14 days in jail.
The six criminal complaints filed against the people caught in APD’s sting show just how low-level the users were.
Three Bucks and Colic Meds
On Monday, May 9, APD’s narcotics unit officers set up the sting—where they would sell drugs taken from the department’s evidence room to people—near Central and Pennsylvania Northeast. One officer positioned himself in the parking lot o a Circle K store and walked toward a 37-year-old transient, Mesa Moquino, who eventually told the officer that he was looking for some “wake up,” or methamphetamines.
“Mesa stated that he wanted a ‘bump’ but had only $5,” the complaint against Moquino said. “I told Mesa I was willing to trade with him and asked what he had.” A bit later, a woman, Madlin Hopkins, approached the officer and Moquino and said she had $7 for a “bump” of meth.
“Madlin began emptying her pockets. Madlin handed me a medication for colic and stated that I could cut crack with it,” the complaint said. “I told Madlin I would accept it with some money. Madlin asked if I would take $3 plus the colic medication. I told Madlin yes. Madlin handed me the medication.”
The officer eventually gave Moquino Hopkins some meth, and both were arrested.
A blue jacket and $5.10
That same day, another APD officer, Det. Marc Clingenpeel, made contact with 49-year-old Anthony Pounds, who was looking for some crack cocaine in the Circle K parking lot.
“I asked Anthony Pounds what he was looking to buy,’ Clingenpeel’s complaint against Pounds said. “Anthony Pounds stated he was looking for ‘hard,’ which is a street term commonly used for Crack Cocaine. I asked how much Crack Cocaine Anthony Pounds was looking to purchase at which time he stated he had five dollars. I told Anthony Pounds that had twenty dollars worth of Crack Cocaine. I asked Anthony Pounds I he was willing to trade his jacket and the five dollars for the Crack Cocaine. Anthony Pounds agreed to my offer at this time.”
Pounds eventually got $5.10 in coins out of his jacket pockets and gave the money and the jacket to Clingenpeel, who then gave him the crack cocaine. Pounds was then arrested.
Officer D. Lopez was near Pennsylvania and Central when he was approached by 48-year-old Eugenia Alvisures who said she would trade the police radio she was carrying for meth.
“A female individual walking up to us stating that she had a police radio that worked and proceeded to raise a P5400 MACOM police radio relaying dispatch chatter,” Lopez’s criminal complaint against Alvisures said. “I immediately identified the radio as a police radio, and witnessed that the channel was dialed to the Southeast Area Command. I told the woman (later identified as Eugenia Alvisures) that I could buy or trade her something for the radio, to which the unidentified male said to Eugenia, ‘He has shardies to trade’ (street term referring to methamphetamine). Eugenia told me ‘I’ll for sure trade or shardies’”
Lopez gave Alvisures some meth for the police radio and Alvisures was arrested.
Swallows the crack
Officer D. Irwin was near Central and Pennsylvania in an undercover capacity when 47-year-old James McCloud rode by on his bicycle. “The subject turned his bicycle two times and rode past me,” Irwin wrote in his complaint against Irwin. “I asked, ‘You need something bro?’ He turned and stopped his bicycle right beside me. He stated, ‘I don’t do shards.’ I told him I had whatever he wanted.
“I asked what he wanted and he stated, ‘hard.’ He said it was his last $10.”
McCloud and Irwin walked to an undercover police car and McCloud handed the officer a $5 bill and five $1 bills. Irwin gave McCloud some crack cocaine, and then gave a signal for other officers to move in and arrest McCloud.
“As the arrest team approached James, I observed James take the baggy that I had just handed him and put it in his mouth,” Irwin’s complaint said. “At that point the arrest team took him into custody. James was advised that he had swallowed real narcotics and he needed to spit it out.”
Because McCloud didn’t spit out the drugs, he was also charged with tampering with evidence. Police did call medical personnel for McCloud.
Willing to trade a jacket for crack
Officer J. Jones was near the Circle K parking lot when he saw 52-year-old William Rodriguez stand near the nearby Pussycat Video store counting money. “As I was walking past William, I asked him how he was doing,” Jones’ complaint against Rodriguez said. “Williams asked me what I wanted to sell him. I asked William what he was looking for. William told me he had only a little bit of money. I asked William how much. William told me he had $6.”
Rodriguez was looking for crack and told the officer that he was willing to trade his jacket for some, but Jones refused the jacket because it was getting cold outside. Eventually, Rodriguez gave Jones $5—the last $5 he had—and the officer handed him the crack. Rodriguez actually dropped the crack and was arrested.
In a compassionate twist to this case, Jones declined to tag Rodriguez’s $5 into evidence. Instead, he put it in Rodriguez’s booking file so he would have it when he get out of jail.
Get them treatment
Richard Pugh, the chief public defender for the Second Judicial District, said police should not have arrested the seven people. Instead, the should have taken them to a nearby county drug treatment center. “Locking up people in cages for drug possession is a failed policy,” Pugh said.