DENVER – Sixty-four people have been charged in Colorado for their alleged involvement in what officials called an international trafficking and money laundering ring that dealt with fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin and firearms, according to law enforcement officials.
The charges were announced Friday by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, 17th Judicial District Attorney Brian Mason and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Denver Field Division Special Agent in Charge Deanne Reuter.
According to the three and information from the attorney general’s office, the 64 people who have been charged saw Colorado Statewide Grand Jury indictments against them returned between October 2019 and Thursday.
The first batch of people were prosecuted by Weiser’s office and the 1st Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Jefferson County, and two more series of indictments were filed in Adams County and are being prosecuted by the officers of Weiser and Mason.
The investigation first started in March 2019 after a tip from law enforcement in Las Vegas, Reuter said. The Denver DEA’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Strike Force led the investigation in partnership with Arvada police.
In total, investigators and law enforcement recovered 77,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills that contained varying amounts of fentanyl. The officials said that 1 in every 4 of those pills, known as M30s, contained a lethal dose of fentanyl.
They also recovered from the drug ring 250 pounds of methamphetamine, 60 pounds of heroin, 6.8 kilograms of cocaine, 12 firearms, 19 vehicles and $931,000 in U.S. currency.
The officials said most of the drugs were transported through ports of entry at the U.S.-Mexico border and made their way to Colorado in vehicles with concealed compartments.
In addition to the drugs and weapons that were recovered, the investigation also dug up an alleged money laundering operating that sent money back and forth to Mexico from Adams County, Colorado Springs and the Denver area.
Weiser, Mason and Reuter lauded the local, state and federal partnership that they said was key to bringing down the organization and helping curb the ongoing increase in fentanyl trafficking and overdose deaths, which have risen sharply in the past few years in Colorado.
“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,” Weiser said 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.”
They said that several ringleaders of the organization were indicted on violations of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act and the Colorado Controlled Substances Act.
“Whenever we take drugs off of our streets, we make our community a safer place in which to live,” Mason said in a statement. “This impressive collaboration between law enforcement agencies is a true success story for making our entire community safer.”