Former “AZ Boys” leader of drug trafficking gang sentenced to life for 2011 murder

A former leader of the AZ Boys drug trafficking gang that imported large quantities of methamphetamine from Phoenix into Otero County was sentenced to life in state prison plus 15 years for his role in the 2011 murder of Richard Valdez.

A former leader of the AZ Boys drug trafficking gang that imported large quantities of methamphetamine from Phoenix into Otero County was sentenced to life in state prison plus 15 years for his role in the 2011 murder of Richard Valdez.

In 2017, a Judicial District jury found Joe D. Chavez Sr. guilty of one count each of first-degree felony murder, second-degree felony accessory to murder, third-degree arson and tampering with evidence. Alamogordo Daily News reported.

Chavez’s life sentence plus 15 years will run concurrently with his 48-year sentence for his 2014 conviction for racketeering, money laundering and drug trafficking that he is currently serving in state prison.

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“For several years, Joe Chavez Sr. and the AZ boys put methamphetamine on our streets, and exposed our community to a culture of gang violence and murder,” DA John P. Sugg said. “Richard Valdez’s death left a wife without a husband and two young children fatherless. Our office won’t back down until every member of the AZ Boys is held accountable for their actions.”

In 2014 Joe’s brother, Bob Chavez, who was also convicted on various felony charges to include money laundering, racketeering, and trafficking methamphetamine for his involvement in the AZ Boys drug trafficking gang.

Bob Chavez is currently serving a 36-year prison term for his 2014 conviction. Several other defendants are also serving prison time for racketing, money laundering and conspiracy due to their involvement in the criminal organization.

Richard Valdez’s deceased body was found in a burned-out car at South Hamilton, and San Pedro Drive after Otero County Sheriff’s Office officers and the Ora Vista Volunteer Fire Department responded to the car fire around 3:30 a.m. November 1, 2011.

First responders located a Suzuki station wagon fully engulfed in flames then extinguished the fire and observed a badly burned body inside the car. Valdez was later identified through DNA by the Office of the Medical Investigator.

During Joe Chavez’s four days trial in 2017, jurors listened to an audio tape of AZ Boys associates talking about finding Valdez because Valdez disrespected Joe and Bob Chavez while at Applebee’s restaurant.

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On the recorded tape, jurors also heard associates talking about getting a handgun to shot Valdez for disrespecting Joe and Bob Chavez. The conversations were being recorded on a Blackberry phone by one of the AZ Boys associates. Jurors listened to associates seeing Valdez then talk about getting a gun to shoot Valdez.

Jurors also heard testimony from Joe’s ex-girlfriend, who testified about a confession Joe made to her about Joe’s role in restraining Valdez while an AZ Boys gang enforcer shot Valdez in the head.

Prosecutors also presented an audio recording between Joe and other AZ Boys associated discussing how to get rid of Valdez’s body.

In August 2017, Joe’s son, Joseph “Joey” Chavez III, pleaded guilty for his part as an accessory in the murder of Valdez. Joey’s sentencing hearing is pending.

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