An international drug trafficking ring and a related money laundering business are out of business, according to Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.
His office, together with the Drug Enforcement Administration made the announcement Feb. 12.
The investigation, which started almost two years ago, uncovered a market for controlled substances, such as heroin and fake oxycodone pills containing fentanyl. Fentanyl is one of the main factors in the increase of opioid overdose deaths before and after the current pandemic, according to a press statement.
Sixty-four people were charged with participating in an international drug trafficking network that transported large quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl from Mexico through U.S. ports of entry into Colorado in motor vehicles with concealed compartments, according to the DA’s office press statement.
“This is a significant amount of illegal drugs taken off the streets,” said DEA Denver Field Division Special Agent in Charge Deanne Reuter. “An investigation of this magnitude couldn’t be accomplished without the support of our local law enforcement partners and their tireless efforts to stop the flow of this poison through our communities.”
The investigation also uncovered a money-laundering operation that trafficked drug proceeds through wire transfers and bulk U.S. currency transports to Mexico. The team found these drug trafficking cells in the Denver metropolitan area, Colorado Springs and Adams County.
“Our community is safer today thanks to the commitment of our investigators and our Law Enforcement Agency partners. The distribution of narcotics and weapons at this level should be of grave concern to our society,” said Arvada Police Chief Link Strate.
The investigation recovered 77,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills (contain fentanyl), 250 pounds of methamphetamine, 60 pounds of heroin, eight kilograms of cocaine, 12 firearms, 19 vehicles valued at $229,000 and $931,000 in U.S. currency.
“Whenever we take drugs off of our streets, we make our community a safer place in which to live,” said District Attorney Brian S. Mason. “This impressive collaboration between law enforcement agencies is a true success story for making our entire community safer.”
From Oct. 22, 2019, to Feb. 11, a state grand jury returned indictments for multiple violations of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act and the Colorado Controlled Substances Act. The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and the state attorney general’s office prosecuted those cases. The second and third batch of indictments are in the Adams County court system. The attorney general and the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office are prosecuting those.
The DEA Strike Force investigation included agents and officers from DEA, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, the Arvada Police Department, the Aurora Police Department, the Denver Police Department, the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations, International Revenue Service, U.S. Marshall’s Office, and Colorado State Patrol.
The statement went on to say that 900 of the nearly 5,000 Coloradans who died from such an overdose were due to synthetic opioids that included fentanyl. That number has risen sharply in recent years, from 49 deaths in 2016 to 220 in 2019, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“Colorado communities and families have suffered greatly from the opioid epidemic—and that impact is getting worse during this pandemic. That’s why addressing this crisis is a top priority for our office,” said Weiser in a statement. “By holding accountable the high-level organizers of this criminal enterprise and halting the spread of dangerous drugs, we can help save lives in Colorado. This effort is an excellent example of what we accomplish through ongoing collaboration in our state.”
The filing of criminal charges or an indictment is merely a formal accusation that an individual committed a crime. Each defendant should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.