Police Arrest 16 In 25 Raids On Metro Pot Growers

Year-Long Investigation Leads To Indictments, Crackdown

Authorities arrested 16 people Wednesday morning during a sweeping metro area crackdown on marijuana traffickers where 25 homes were raided.

North Metro Drug Task Force Cmdr. Jerry Peters said the raids were part of a year-long investigation that culminated in recent grand jury indictments.

It was dubbed Operation Sweet Leaf.

Law enforcement officers executed search warrants at 15 houses in Adams County, three in Broomfield, four in Denver, one in Weld County, one in Erie and one in Breckenridge, authorities said.

The arrests, which included men and women, happened without incident, Peters said. Six children were removed from some homes and placed in the care of social services, he added.

About 10 more arrests are expected over the next week, authorities said.

Peters said the illegal pot trafficking crackdown did not involve medical marijuana. He said the probe targeted illicit growers who were shipping the pot out of state using the U.S. Postal Service.

Colorado Becoming Magnet For Pot Growers, Officials Say

Colorado has become a magnet for pot growers because our rules are so lax pertaining to acquiring and growing medical marijuana, Peters said.

Some people are even buying homes solely for growing marijuana to sell illegally to drug users in other states, officials said.

"We continue to see that Colorado has become a source state for the country," Peters said.

Inside one of the boxes seized from a Thornton home were 200 marijuana plants.

This group banded together to grow marijuana in nice homes, pretending they’re doing it for medical purposes but then selling them out of state for illegal drug use, officials said.

At one home in Thornton that was the subject of a raid there was no furniture, no family, no electricity except in the basement and no signs of habitation -- just marijuana plants and the equipment needed to grow them.

At that home, 7NEWS saw agents dressed in black from head-to-toe with their faces covered, bringing boxes packed with hundreds of marijuana plants and grow lights.

Neighbors said they had no idea what the house was being used for.

"This morning we were going to the dentist and we saw all the cops coming out and we're like, 'What's going on?' Nothing like this ever happen," said neighbor Lisbeth Ibarra.

Northglenn residents said SWAT officers used two armored cars and flash-bang grenades during a 6:30 a.m. raid of a house near West 104th Avenue and Melody Drive.

A neighbor said a cul-de-sac was blocked off during the raid that involved about 20 emergency vehicles, including 15 police cars, two ambulances, two fire trucks and several unmarked vehicles.

A total of 69 criminal charges were contained in the 16 arrest warrants, including racketeering, distribution of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, conspiracy to distribute marijuana and money laundering, according to Adams County District Attorney Don Quick's office.

"This was a large grow and distribution ring and I am grateful for the cooperative, multi-agency approach to this complex investigation," Quick said.

The joint investigation included the North Metro Drug Task Force, Drug Enforcement Agency, Internal Revenue Service, United States Postal Service, South Metro Drug Task Force, Boulder County Drug Task Force, Adams County Sheriff’s Office, Weld County Sheriff’s Office, Denver Police Department Narcotics Unit and Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

"Individuals who use the U.S. mail to facilitate the transportation of illegal drugs and related proceeds are violating federal law and these are priority investigations for our agency," said Oscar Villanueva, inspector in charge of the Denver Postal Inspection Service. "It is very concerning these criminal enterprises are operating in neighborhoods posing risks to families, children, and our postal employees, who process and deliver the mail."

The names of the suspects arrested have not been released.

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