Photo: Drug money
Ten Mexican nationals were arrested on changes of transporting large quantities of cocaine to Colorado for sale in the Denver metropolitan area.
The criminal operation generated around $6 million a month, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said.
Reputed ringleader Simon Diaz Vera and his alleged accomplices face 23 counts, including possession and distribution of drugs and criminal conspiracy.
If convicted, each defendant could be sentenced to as much as 60 years in prison.
“This is an excellent example of how the Colorado law enforcement community bands together to dismantle criminal operations,” Suthers said. “We hope other aspiring international and interstate drug traffickers will take heed.”
The attorney general did not offer details on the ultimate source of the cocaine, nor did he mention any possible connections between the defendants and Mexico’s powerful drug cartels.
The investigation was launched in June by the Denver Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force and began to bear fruit on Sept. 11, when authorities intercepted 25 kilos of cocaine and seized $150,000 in cash and one of the vehicles used by the ring.
Diaz Vera was arrested three days later at his home in the Denver suburb of Broomfield.
His apprehension resulted in other arrests and the confiscation of additional drugs, vehicles and cash, according to Barbra Roach, special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Denver Field Division.
A member of the task force, Tim Davis, said the smugglers devised sophisticated mechanisms to conceal the drugs inside the ring’s fleet of specially modified SUVs.
“They’re very creative. In a routine stop,” he said, the drugs “would be difficult to find.”