ALBUQUERQUE – Nathan Berke, 38, of Albuquerque, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court to drug trafficking, firearms, mail theft, and aggravated identity theft charges under a plea agreement that recommends that he be sentenced to a term of imprisonment within the range of 120 to 204 months. The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson and Inspector in Charge Melisa Llosa of the Phoenix Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Berke and co-defendant Joann Bell, 37, also of Albuquerque, were charged on May 24, 2017, in a 14-count indictment with drug trafficking, firearms, mail theft, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft offenses. Bell pled guilty in Dec. 2017, and on Dec. 5, 2017, a superseding indictment charging Berke individually, was filed.
The 13-count superseding indictment charged Berke with the following offenses: participation in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy in July 2016, in Bernalillo County; possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute on July 28, 2016, in Bernalillo County; using a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime on July 28, 2016, in Bernalillo County; possession of stolen mail on July 28, 2016, in Bernalillo County; possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute on Aug. 9, 2016, in San Juan County; being a felon in possession of a firearm on July 28, 2016, in Bernalillo County; possession of stolen mail on Aug. 9, 2016, in San Juan County; and three counts of bank fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft from July 23, 2016 through July 25, 2016, in New Mexico.
During today’s proceedings, Berke pled guilty to a four-count felony information charging him with conspiracy, two counts of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and using a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Additionally, Berke pled guilty to Counts 5 through 13 of the superseding indictment charging him with being a felon in possession of a firearm, two counts of possession of stolen mail, three counts of bank fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft.
In entering the guilty plea, Berke admitted the following:
- On July 28, 2016, Berke possessed 100 grams of methamphetamine in Bernalillo County, which he intended to distribute to others, stolen mail, and two loaded firearms. Berke also acknowledged that he was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because of his status as a convicted felon.
- On Aug. 9, 2016, Berke possessed approximately 105 grams of methamphetamine in San Juan County, which he intended to distribute to others, and stolen mail.
- Between July 23, 2016 and July 25, 2016, Berke used identity information from stolen mail and counterfeit identifications to pass counterfeit and unauthorized checks in the names of others to purchase gift cards at Albuquerque-area stores, which he then sold to others for cash. Berke also admitted that in this time-period, he attempted to open a membership account at an Albuquerque-area store using a counterfeit check, counterfeit identifications and a drivers’ license in the name of another person.
On Dec. 14, 2017, Bell pled guilty to conspiracy, possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and possessing stolen mail. In entering the guilty plea, Bell admitted that on July 28, 2016, she and another person possessed approximately 100 grams of methamphetamine, which they intended to distribute to others. Bell also admitted that on that same day, she possessed mail that belonged to others but had been stolen from an authorized depository for U.S. mail. Bell entered her guilty plea under a plea agreement that recommended the imposition of a sentence of five years of imprisonment.
Bell previously had been arrested in Sept. 2016, on a criminal complaint charging her with repeatedly stealing mail from U.S. Postal Service mail collection boxes located outside of U.S. Post Offices in Albuquerque by using a “fishing” device she fed into the mailbox to “fish” mail out. Bell was indicted in this case on Oct. 12, 2016, and was charged with stealing and receiving stolen mail on Sept. 18, 2016 in Bernalillo County. On March 30, 2017, Bell pled guilty to the indictment and admitted using a “fishing” device to pull mail out of USPS collection boxes on Sept. 17 and 18, 2016. The sentence imposed in that case will run concurrent to the five-year term of imprisonment to be imposed on Bell based on the guilty plea entered in Dec. 2017.
Berke and Bell both remain in custody pending sentencing hearings, which have yet to be scheduled.