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February 19, 2020Denver, CO, United StatesNarcotics

30 Coloradans indicted for drug trafficking

Lead defendant charged under federal drug kingpin statute

DENVER – Thirty individuals, most currently in custody, were indicted Wednesday by two federal grand juries for trafficking drugs in the United States.

U.S. Attorney Jason R. Dunn, District of Colorado, announced the indictment. This case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), FBI, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and the Aurora Police Department.

The arrests included more than two dozen suspected members of a Mexican drug trafficking organization based in Denver, including one, Candelaria Vallejo-Gallo, who is being charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise, otherwise known as being charged as a drug kingpin, under federal law. To be considered a drug kingpin, the individual has to violate the Controlled Substances Act as part of a series of related or ongoing violations. Additionally, the defendant must be an organizer, supervisor, or manager of at least five other persons connected in the same activity and obtain substantial income or resources from the series of violations. If convicted of being a kingpin, Vallejo-Gallo faces not less than 20 years, and up to life in federal prison. Vallejo-Gallo is a Mexican national.

Twenty-four of the 30 are in federal custody, one is in state custody on a separate charge, four others are believed to be in Mexico, and one remains at-large in the United States.

In addition to the drug trafficking charges, at least one defendant is charged with carrying a firearm in furtherance of the conspiracy.

During the execution of multiple search warrants, agents seized approximately 400 pounds of methamphetamine, five pounds of heroin, four pounds of cocaine, and 15,000 fentanyl pills, which were disguised to look like prescription oxycodone.

The investigation into the Vallejo Drug Trafficking Organization began in late 2018.

"This is a very significant operation that took a massive amount of drugs and a large number of drug traffickers off our streets," said United States Attorney Jason R. Dunn. "I want to commend the work of the FBI for their outstanding investigation, as well as for their tactical operation last week in apprehending this large number of defendants without incident. I also want to thank the other law enforcement agencies that participated in this operation and the arrests. Colorado's law enforcement community is second to none in terms of our ability to work collaboratively to ensure that criminals are apprehended and that the best interests of the public are always our controlling objective."

"The combined efforts of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Colorado State Patrol, Aurora PD, and a multitude of other law enforcement agencies resulted in the FBI OCDETF Strike Force Group taking a significant drug trafficking organization off the streets of Denver and Aurora," said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Dean Phillips. "Thanks to these partnerships, our community and children are safer."

"This indictment reflects the hard work of our special agents and law enforcement partners who worked diligently over the last year to investigate the Vallejo Drug Trafficking Organization and bring them to justice," said Assistant Special Agent in Charge, HSI Denver, Stephanie Lord Eisert. "HSI remains committed to targeting the flow of money which fuels transnational organized crime, and we will continue to aggressively pursue those that enable the flow of deadly narcotics into our communities."

"The members of this criminal organization are facing serious charges thanks to the hard work of our officers who are uniquely qualified in identifying criminal illegal aliens involved in organized crime," said John Fabbricatore, acting field officer director, ERO Denver. "ERO is dedicated to working with our law enforcement partners to keep our communities safe."

This indictment is the result of a joint investigation by an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force. The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies.

The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation's illegal drug supply. Program participants include HSI; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Drug Enforcement Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation; and U.S. Marshals Service.

The charges contained in the indictments are allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty. The defendants are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cyrus Chung and Zachary Phillips.