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Feds arrest 22 in New Mexico-Texas border town drug sweep

Twenty-two people were arrested on drug trafficking and other charges Wednesday during an early morning border town roundup that woke residents with the sounds of helicopters, bangs and screaming.

"At 5 a.m. we heard a big boom," said Angie Marquez, 19, who lives across the street and three doors down from a home that had its front door busted in. "It was really loud. My mom was the one who told me to get up because there were a lot of cops."

Another neighbor, Aurelia Morales, 49, said she saw four helicopters circling overhead.

At an afternoon news conference in nearby Las Cruces, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade said 29 people were charged in 13 criminal complaints with distributing cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana in and around southern Dona Ana County. Besides the 22 who were arrested, five people are fugitives, and two already were in state custody on other charges.

One of the defendants also is charged with illegally entering the United States after having been deported, and another is charged with being a felon in possession of firearms, authorities said.

Wade declined to say if those charged had ties to any Mexican drug cartels.

A total of seven search warrants were executed, and 20 weapons, 3 kilograms of cocaine, 2 pounds of marijuana and $35,000 in cash was seized in the raids, Wade said.

At one home, federal agents broke through a 4-foot-high chain link fence, tore the bars off a window, broke the window and knocked down the front door.

The criminal complaints, which were filed under seal on April 29 and May 6, were unsealed following the early morning roundup.

Of the 29 defendants charged, 17 are residents of Anthony, N.M., and four are residents of Anthony, Texas, according to authorities. Two others are residents of Berino, N.M., two live in Las Cruces, N.M., two live in Canutillo, Texas, one is in Los Lunas, N.M., and one is in Vado, N.M.

New Mexico U.S. Attorney Ken Gonzales said the roundup followed an intensive four-month multi-agency investigation led by the FBI's Las Cruces Cross-Border Drug Violence Hybrid Squad and Southern New Mexico Gang Task Force that targeted known drug dealers in southern Dona Ana County. State and local law enforcement assisted with the raid.

"These arrests are part of our statewide fight against drugs and the cycle of violence that goes hand in hand with drug trafficking," Gonzales said in a news release. "The federal law enforcement community remains committed to working with its state and local partners to safeguard families throughout New Mexico."

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