Judge tosses money laundering charges, piles of evidence in Taos drug probe

TAOS — Prosecutors and federal agents failed to produce proof that they had properly applied for a wiretap, so a state district judge in Taos has suppressed piles of evidence seized during an operation that culminated a lengthy investigation of cocaine trafficking.

Judge Jeff McElroy ruled last week that evidence obtained with the irregular wiretap could not be used by prosecutors.

The case involves the proprietor of In and Out Plumbing, Ismael Adame-Orosco. He is accused of tax evasion, though prosecutors claim he used his family’s business to launder the profits of a cocaine trafficking network.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigators previously claimed they had intercepted 101 calls to or from a Taos man’s cellphone concerning drug trafficking, money laundering or racketeering during 60 days of surveillance in early 2014.

But attorneys for Adame-Orosco and his wife, Angela Adame, said evidence from the wiretap should be suppressed because prosecutors never produced an application for the surveillance. Though a judge once renewed the wiretap, the original application was not submitted to the court.

Defense lawyers asked the judge to toss any evidence obtained with warrants from the wiretaps. This includes items seized during a search of Adame-Orosco’s home and business during an early morning raid on May 15, 2014, as well as a statement he provided to law enforcement following his arrest that day.

McElroy said the defense motion did not specify which evidence should be excluded from a trial, so he will reserve judgment on what would be suppressed.

One day before the ruling, McElroy dismissed money laundering charges against Adame-Orosco and his wife. Prosecutors have not actually tied Adame-Orosco to drug trafficking. Instead, they based their case against him on allegations that he evaded paying taxes on business revenue.

McElroy also dismissed related counts of conspiracy, leaving Adame-Orosco and his wife still facing 21 counts of attempting to evade taxes, four counts of tax fraud, and 25 felony counts of conspiracy to commit tax evasion or tax fraud. Angela Adame also faces two third-degree felony counts of conspiracy to commit trafficking.

Twenty-five other people were charged in what investigators called Operation Plumber’s Mansion.

Four suspects have entered guilty pleas, including the Adame-Orosco’s daughter Jessica. She pleaded guilty to six counts of tax evasion and one count of conspiracy for failing to pay $3,000 in gross receipts taxes between March 2010 and February 2014. Prosecutors dropped drug charges against her.

The proprietor of an auto parts shop pleaded no contest to possession of a controlled substance earlier this month as prosecutors dropped a 16-count indictment charging him with cocaine trafficking.

Another man entered pleas of guilty in July to drug trafficking charges and was deported. Six cases have been dismissed and two suspended after defendants entered a diversion program. Fifteen cases remain open.

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