Las Cruces elementary school teacher arrested trafficking cocaine www.privateofficer.com
LAS CRUCES NM Nov 12 2011 - A Las Cruces elementary school teacher has been arrested and jailed for allegedly trafficking cocaine.
Metro Narcotics agents arrested 35-year-old Roberto Varela around 7:30 a.m. Thursday as he arrived at Loma Heights Elementary, where he teaches third grade.
Varela was unarmed and no children were present to see the arrest, Metro Narcotics Sgt. Bobby Holden said.
Superintendent Stan Rounds issued a statement after the arrest, saying there was no indication that any inappropriate or illegal activity took place on school grounds.
“We are communicating with all the parents at Loma Heights and assuring them that their children are safe,” Rounds said in his statement Thursday. “It is alleged that any illegal activity took place away from school.”
In addition to placing a Loma Heights educational assistant in Varela’s classroom, the superintendent said he has taken immediate and “appropriate” personnel action on Varela, but the specific details were confidential.
The arrest came after a monthlong investigation that started when the city-county Metro Narcotics agency received information that the teacher might be selling cocaine, Holden said.
In October, at his home on the 1600 block of Rio Grande Street in Las Cruces, Varela then allegedly sold $100 worth of cocaine to an undercover Metro agent working the case, Holden said.
“We didn’t know (he was a teacher) until we actually did a little bit of background,” Holden said Thursday. “We didn’t want to wait too long (before the arrest) because of the possibility he holds. He’s a teacher. We don’t want to sit around and wait five or six months working the case because he’s a school teacher – we don’t want that (criminal activity) to have any impact on the kids. We hurried as quick as we could to make sure we got it done quickly.”
Varela has been employed with Las Cruces Public Schools since October 2009, and at Loma Heights since August 2010, according to the district.
Charges against possible co-conspirators outside the school system are possible, Holden said, though he declined to comment further due to the ongoing investigation.
Holden said the case was “unfortunate.”
“Obviously, the public is going to have a concern about it – and rightfully so,” he said.”
Varela was booked Thursday morning into the Do-a Ana County Detention Center on one charge of cocaine trafficking. His bond was set at $10,000.
After the holiday weekend, the school’s principal will place a substitute teacher in Varela’s classroom, according to the school district.
“This is a very unfortunate incident and our school staff is pulling together to help any child who may be confused or needs assistance,” said Principal Rudy Leos in a prepared statement Thursday. “Today, and after the holiday weekend, our school social worker is available for any student who wants to speak with her.”
Additional counselors within the district will be made available at Loma Heights, if necessary.
Source:LAS CRUCES SUN TIMES