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Narcotics
02/09/2012

Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies engage in largest drug bust in Colorado history arresting gang members and drug dealers

DENVER — Special agents, police officers and deputy sheriffs on Thursday arrested 80 people on drug and/or gun charges, announced the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado. The arrests were made by over 500 law enforcement officers, making this the largest drug bust in Denver history.

The arrests, announced on Thursday at a press conference in Aurora, Colo., were made after separate investigations were conducted by: the Metro Gang Task Force (MGTF), the Denver Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Strike Force, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the North Metro Task Force (NMTF). The combination of these four separate-but-related investigations resulted in the Feb. 9 mass arrests. A total of 97 defendants have been charged in either federal or state court as a part of this operation.

During the course of the investigation, including this operation, law enforcement officers seized 12 weapons, including an SKS assault rifle, an AR-15 assault rifle, handguns, $415,140 in cash, 26,129 grams of cocaine, one kilogram of crack cocaine, and one pound of methamphetamine.

The defendants arrested by the MGTF, FBI, DEA, the Denver OCDETF Strike Force, and HSI resulted from seven separate indictments obtained by a federal grand jury in Denver. Many made court appearances on Thursday in two separate courtrooms, where they were advised of the charges pending against them and the related penalties. The federal defendants will have detention hearings and will be arraigned next week. The defendants arrested by the NMTF are being prosecuted by 17th Judicial District Attorney Don Quick.

In addition to the subjects targeted for arrest on Thursday, 25 gang members and associates have been charged for their role in 16 violent take-over bank robberies. In December 2009, the FBI's Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force began investigating the first of these robberies that occurred in the Denver metro area. Intelligence developed by investigators was shared with members of MGTF, Aurora Police Department, and Denver Police Department. That information was used by MGTF to initiate its enterprise investigation, leading to some of the indictments being announced Feb. 9. Of the 25 gang members and associates identified, 23 have been convicted for bank robbery, 19 pursuant to federal charges and four in state court.

"This combined enforcement action to take down four separate but related investigations demonstrates the coordinated strength and professionalism of federal, state and local law enforcement working together in Metro Denver," said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. "These results could not have been done without the hundreds of members of our law enforcement family. Today our streets are safer, and the drug trade in Colorado has suffered a massive blow."

"This complex multi-agency, multi-indictment operation has its roots in the simple theme of drug smuggling," said Michael A. Holt, special agent in charge of HSI Denver. "The cooperation among our various law enforcement agencies traced the original multiple investigations involving money laundering, bulk cash smuggling, gang involvement and other criminal activity back to transporting and smuggling illegal drugs."

If convicted, a vast majority of the federally charged defendants face not less than 10 years, and up to life in federal prison, as well as a fine of not more than $10 million.

The defendants in the NMTF case face either class two or class three felonies, with many of the drug distributions relying on the weight of the drugs distributed. Depending on the weight, these charges carry mandatory minimum prison sentences.

The MGTF is comprised of: FBI, Adams County Sheriff's Office, Aurora Police Department, Colorado National Guard, Colorado State Patrol, Commerce City Police Department, Denver District Attorney's Office, Denver Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff's Office, HSI, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, the Rocky Mountain HIDTA, Thornton Police Department, and the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).

The Denver OCDETF Strike Force includes: DEA, FBI, HSI, IRS-CI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Marshals Service. Also assisting in the Denver OCDETF Strike Force investigation were: DEA's Los Angeles Field Division, the multi-agency Special Operations Division (SOD), and attorneys from the Criminal Division's Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section and the Office of International Affairs.

The NMTF is comprised of law enforcement officers from: Adams County Sheriff's Office, Thornton Police Department, Westminster Police Department, Commerce City Police Department, Northglenn Police Department and Federal Heights Police Department.

The indictments are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.