ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. – Sixteen people were indicted on felonies, including drug and organized crime charges, in relation to Thursday’s large-scale marijuana raid that targeted an illegal grow and out-of-state distribution ring operating in Colorado.
The raids happened Thursday in Denver, Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and El Paso counties.
Of the 16 people indicted, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler said at a joint news conference with DEA and Douglas County Sheriff’s Office authorities Friday afternoon that 15 of them were already in custody.
Brauchler said the suspects’ ages range from 28 to 63 years old.
He said the investigation started last August in Elbert County, where 2,500 pounds of marijuana were found, but that it “turned into a much longer and broader investigation.”
He said that the group was growing close to 300 pounds of marijuana each month, which was all distributed to states across the country, including Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and possibly Florida and New Mexico, according to Brauchler.
Around 2,000 plants were taken from just one Denver warehouse Thursday during the raid.
Brauchler added that not only was the ring allegedly growing and distributing marijuana flower, but was also making and distributing hash oil. He said many of the transactions took place in broad daylight, including at an Aurora school’s parking lot and at a Castle Rock Starbucks.
The Drug Enforcement Agency’s Barbara Roach said the marijuana was specifically being grown to be sold and distributed out of state, and said she believes that people are coming to Colorado specifically for that reason.
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Steve Johnson said that Colorado was fostering the “criminal enterprises,” and that illegal home grows are being found “on a daily basis.”
Nineteen locations were raided Thursday, during which authorities said they also seized 39 weapons.
Though there has been much apprehension over what new Attorney General Jeff Sessions will do when it comes to overseeing federal law enforcement regarding state laws on legal marijuana, the DEA says Thursday’s raids were not part of a new directive.
The Colorado Legislature is currently hashing out at least two bills aimed at cracking down on illegal marijuana grows. One of the bills would limit medical patients to grow only 16 plants – down from the current number of 99 – in an effort to further hamper illegal grows.
Local jurisdictions are allowed under state law to establish grow limits for recreational users, but the state law has capped the limit at six.
But large-scale growers have to have special licenses and oversight and are required to sell their product inside the state.
The 16 people indicted in relation to the raids are as follows:
- Rudy Saenz, 62
- Michael Stonehouse, 53
- Ted Stonehouse, 51
- Tilden Lazaro, 26
- Raciel Martinez, 52
- John Cathey, 63
- Vincent Castillo, 33
- William “Todd” Garner, 58
- Jerram Cathey, 27
- John Mason Cathey, 27
- Myisha Evans, 38
- Vernon Watts, 46
- Jason Jones, 46
- Amy Jones, 28
- John Ramsay, 45
- Jibaro Smith, 45
The 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office says Jibaro Smith is the one outstanding suspect.