The Denver Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration in partnership with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, Arvada Police Department, and the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, announced the dismantling of an international drug trafficking ring and a related money laundering enterprise operating throughout Colorado.
The investigation, which launched in March 2019, uncovered a thriving market for illicit controlled substances, including heroin and counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports are the primary drivers of the recent increase in opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the last 20 years in Colorado, nearly 5,000 Coloradans died from a prescription opioid overdose. More than 900 of those deaths were due to synthetic opioids that included fentanyl. That number has risen sharply in recent years, from 49 deaths in 2016 to 220 in 2019, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“This is a significant amount of illegal drugs taken off the streets,” said DEA Denver Field Division Special Agent in Charge Deanne Reuter. “An investigation of this magnitude couldn’t be accomplished without the support of our local law enforcement partners and their tireless efforts to stop the flow of this poison through our communities.”
The Denver DEA’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Strike Force directed the law enforcement investigation in partnership with the Arvada Police Department. As a result of the investigation, 64 people were charged with participating in an international drug trafficking network that transported large quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl from Mexico through U.S. ports of entry into Colorado in motor vehicles with concealed compartments.
“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,” said Weiser. “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.”
The investigation also uncovered a money laundering operation that trafficked drug proceeds through a variety of wire transfers and bulk U.S. currency transports to Mexico. The team found these drug trafficking cells in the Denver metropolitan area, Colorado Springs, and Adams County.
“Our community is safer today thanks to the commitment of our investigators and our Law Enforcement Agency partners. The distribution of narcotics and weapons at this level should be of grave concern to our society,” said Arvada Police Chief Link Strate.
The investigation has recovered:
- 77,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills (contain fentanyl)
- 250 pounds of methamphetamine
- 60 pounds of heroin
- 6.8 kilograms of cocaine
- 12 firearms
- 19 vehicles valued at $229,000
- $931,000 in U.S. currency
From Oct. 22, 2019, to Feb. 11, 2021, the Colorado Statewide Grand Jury returned indictments for multiple violations of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act and the Colorado Controlled Substances Act. The first series of indictments were filed in Jefferson County and were prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office in partnership with the 1st Judicial District Attorney’s Office. The second and third series of indictments were filed in Adams County are being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office in partnership with the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
“Whenever we take drugs off of our streets, we make our community a safer place in which to live,” said District Attorney Brian S. Mason. “This impressive collaboration between law enforcement agencies is a true success story for making our entire community safer.”