Dean pleads to charges

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Lonnie Dean, 48, of Belen, pleaded guilty Tuesday to methamphetamine trafficking and assault on a federal officer charges under a plea agreement that requires him to serve a 20 year prison sentence.

Dean was one of 12 individuals from Valencia and Socorro counties charged with federal methamphetamine trafficking charges in May and June 2011, following a 16-month investigation led by the DEA and the Los Lunas Police Department.

The investigation, code-named "Vanilla Sky," was pursued under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, a nationwide initiative that combines the resources and unique expertise of federal agencies, along with their local counterparts, in a coordinated attack against major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.

According to court filings, Dean was part of a large scale methamphetamine trafficking organization that operated in Valencia County, and allegedly was led by Arturo Acosta-Astorga, 53, and Ovidio Estrada, 39, both residents of Los Lunas.

Between March 2010 and May 2011, Acosta-Astorga, Estrada and their co-conspirators allegedly conspired to sell ounce quantities of methamphetamine to undercover DEA agents on at least ten separate occasions. The defendants allegedly sold more than a pound of methamphetamine to the undercover DEA agents during a 14-month period.

During the hearing Tuesday, Dean pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and assaulting a federal officer with a dangerous weapon.

In entering his guilty plea, Dean admitted conspiring with others to distribute methamphetamine in Los Lunas and Belen, and assaulting a federal officer as he attempted to avoid arrest.

More specifically, Dean admitted that on May 26, 2011, he drove to a gas station in Belen for the purpose of selling methamphetamine to another person.

As Dean was talking to his customer, DEA agents approached him and attempted to arrest him. One DEA agent, who had blocked Dean's car from the front, exited his car and was moving on foot to a better tactical position with his gun and badge drawn, while another agent parked his vehicle behind Dean's car to block him in.

Dean admitted that, instead of surrendering, he put his car into reverse and hit the DEA agent's car causing it to go backward. Dean then put his car into drive and drove forward, missing the DEA agent only because the agent jumped to the side to avoid being struck.

Less than a minute later, Dean drove into a road and entered an intersection where he struck a car driven by Roberta Torres, 40, of Belen, who died as a result of the injuries she sustained in the crash.

Dean has been in federal custody since his arrest on May 2011, and remains detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

Dean also faces several state charges, including homicide by vehicle, relating to Torres' death in the 13th Judicial District Court. He has entered a not guilty plea to the state charges.

Three other defendants have entered guilty pleas in this federal case, including Andrew Gilbert Martinez, 30, of Socorro, Thanh Vu Huynh, 47, of Los Lunas, and Sylvia Jeanette Sisneros, 51, of Socorro,