ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Tony Gauna, 37, of Vaughn, New Mexico appeared in federal court in Albuquerque today for an initial appearance on a criminal complaint charging him with participation in a Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) conspiracy and other offenses related to the Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico (“SNM”) prison gang.
The complaint specifically charges Gauna with one count of RICO conspiracy, two counts of interference with commerce by threats or violence, one count of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
According to the criminal complaint, Gauna has been a member of the SNM prison gang since 2001. He allegedly committed numerous violent crimes on behalf of SNM since joining the gang. These crimes included allegedly brandishing a pistol while robbing a discount store in Albuquerque on April 15 and allegedly discharging a pistol during a restaurant robbery in Albuquerque on April 30. Gauna could not lawfully possess firearms at the time of these alleged offenses based on previous felony convictions for shooting at or from a motor vehicle, battery on a police officer, auto burglary and other crimes.
Gauna also allegedly committed other acts of violence on behalf of SNM, including a stabbing to enforce a drug debt in 2003 and a beating at a park in Roswell, New Mexico in 2009. The complaint further accuses Gauna of stealing firearms from a home in Roswell in 2009 and selling the firearms to SNM members. The criminal complaint also accuses Gauna of committing several drug trafficking offenses on behalf of SNM, including smuggling heroin into detention and correctional facilities in New Mexico.
Gauna is currently in custody pending a detention hearing on July 6. He faces up to 20 years in prison for RICO conspiracy and interference with commerce by threats or violence. Gauna faces from ten years to life in prison for discharging and from seven years to life in prison for brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. He faces up to ten years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. A criminal complaint is only an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The FBI investigated this case with assistance from the New Mexico Corrections Department, New Mexico State Police, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, Metropolitan Correctional Center, Albuquerque Police Department, and U.S. Marshals Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys from the Las Cruces Branch Office are prosecuting the case as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program, a nationwide Department of Justice program that combines the resources and unique expertise of federal agencies, along with their local counterparts, in a coordinated effort to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations.