An organization suspected of bringing in over 45,000 pounds of marijuana every year from Mexico was busted by the West Metro Drug Task Force and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The Jefferson County Grand Jury has issued a 96-count indictment against 23 suspects who were allegedly involved in the Denver-metro drug trafficking ring. Throughout a one-year investigation, officials seized 1,172 pounds marijuana, 14 vehicles, 7 firearms, 2 kilograms of cocaine and 53 grams of methamphetamine. The street value of the drugs that were seized amount to over $1 million.
While 18 of the 23 men have been arrested, ten of whom are suspected to be on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holds, five are still believed by authorities to be at-large in Mexico.
They found that large tour buses were being used to transport thousands of pounds of marijuana from Mexico to a warehouse in Commerce City. The marijuana had been compressed into "brick" form and was hidden in specialized compartments which had been installed underneath the buses.
From May 2010 until April 2011, the buses traveled twice a week from Mexico to the warehouse in Commerce City, carrying over 400 pounds of marijuana each time. The compressed marijuana has a street value of $50 per ounce and $800 a pound.
A man living in Arvada, Conrado Arellano-Casas, 32, is believed to have been the ringleader of the Colorado branch according to the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office and a search warrant obtained by detectives revealed a loaded AK47 among other firearms and thousands in cash.
Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey said in a statement:
This is great example of teamwork between local and federal law enforcement agencies in Colorado and our neighboring states. An operation of this size requires extraordinary organization and expertise. With the West Metro Drug Task Force leading the way, a major drug ring bringing large quantities of drugs into the our community has been dismantled.
Los Zetas are believed to be the source of the operation in Durango, Mexico having allegedly entered the country through El Paso, Texas. The U.S. government has called Los Zetas "the most technologically advanced, sophisticated and dangerous cartel operating in Mexico."