Cibola County Deputy and K-9 seize more than $6 million worth of drugs – KOAT New Mexico

Pandemic changed the way drugs come into and through NM.
Pandemic changed the way drugs come into and through NM.
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Pandemic changed the way drugs come into and through NM.
More drugs are pouring into New Mexico and police are cracking down.
Deputy Julian Armijo and K-9 Rinkin have been together for several years — but their work in Cibola County started in 2017. Both are part of the criminal interdiction team with the Cibola County Sheriff’s Office. Their main focus is finding illegal drugs, guns and criminals along Interstate 40.
“It is scary seeing so many narcotics go through I-40, but it’s not surprising to me,” Armijo said.

Earlier this month, the duo seized more than 200 pounds of marijuana with a street value of more than $1,000,000.
“I was patrolling Interstate-40 and I observed a vehicle go off the roadway a couple of times. Due to my concerns that the driver was possibly fine, asleep or impaired, I conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle,” Armijo said. “I had a strong, overwhelming odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle, which is consistent to larger amounts at this time in the state of New Mexico.”
Inside, he found the marijuana in seven large duffle bags.
“If I get a small amount of narcotics off the off the interstate or even in the county of Cibola, that’s at least one life that I that I’ve saved, which makes me feel really proud,” Armijo said.
That traffic stop is just one of many Armijo and Rinkin have conducted. In 2021, the duo had 21 seizures, totaling more than $6,000,000.
Drug seizures that large are not a surprise for Cibola County. Sheriff Tony Mace told KOAT, they find a lot of drugs making their way into and through New Mexico.
“Once or twice a week, my interdiction is out there every day, but about once or twice a week, we get pretty good seizures off the interstate, whether it be methamphetamines, heroin, fentanyl, marijuana. We’ve seen an uptick in marijuana. We’ve also seen an uptick in fentanyl,” Mace said.
He said there is a higher demand for marijuana due to it being legal in some states. As for fentanyl, Mace said the drug is cheap and easier to conceal.
“We’ve had stops where my deputy stops a vehicle, sees a load of dope and then 15 miles down the road, the other interdiction officer is stopping a vehicle and seizing another load of dope, at the same day, 30 minutes apart, 15 miles apart. The amount of narcotics that move up and down our interstate is ridiculous,” Mace said.
The pandemic changed the way these drugs are moved.
“We really saw an uptick when COVID hit because a lot of the border check stations and different things like that, they weren’t open. So you’ve seen a lot more narcotics. You saw the cartel taking advantage of those open areas and trying to move more product through,” Mace said.

Each traffic stop and each seizure of drugs is one step closer to keeping New Mexico safe.
“With drugs comes other crimes. Whether it be larcenies, burglaries, robberies, homicides, I mean, it just it’s like the gateway to all crime,” Mace said.
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