Aspen men plead not guilty in federal drug case | AspenTimes.com

Aspen men plead not guilty in federal drug case

A federal grand jury last month returned a superseding indictment charging two Aspen residents and 15 other defendants as part of an investigation into a Mexican drug ring, according to court documents.

The 57-count indictment, issued July 11, preceded not-guilty pleas entered July 27 in the U.S. District Court of Denver by all of the defendants.

The suspects face charges in connection to allegations that they ran a multimillion-dollar cocaine and methamphetamine operation from Mexico to Colorado. They allegedly would bring the drugs from Mexico to California, then transport them to Colorado, holding them at three locations in the Denver area to be parceled out and distributed.

The suspects include Aspen residents Oscar Mora-Campos, 43, and Jose Chica-Orellana, who is in his late 30s, both of whom are in the custody of the U.S. Marshal's Office.

Federal agents arrested Mora-Campos on April 20 in New Castle without incident, according to court documents. Authorities took Chica-Orellana into custody March 30 in Las Vegas, court documents show.

The arrests came after a grand jury in Denver returned its original 53-count indictment April 13.

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Mora-Campos, the newer indictment alleges, conspired with others to distribute at least 5 kilograms of a substance containing cocaine Oct. 16. He also is accused of conspiring to distribute more than 50 kilograms of methamphetamine and more than 500 grams "of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine," the indictment said.

Chica-Orellana stands accused of selling more than 500 grams of cocaine July 8, 2016, less than 500 kilograms July 20, 2016, and more than 500 grams of cocaine Aug. 26, according to court documents.

The two Aspen residents also face felony charges for using communications devices to conduct their business.

"Each defendant faces not less than 10 years, and up to life in prison, as well as a $10 million fine," the Department of Justice said in a statement issued April 20. "Each defendant also faces a variety of other drug related charges with different prison penalties."

The prosecution also has successfully moved to declare the case "complex," meaning that it is not on the fast track for adjudication.

"The indictment in this case follows a year-long investigation into a complex drug trafficking and money laundering investigation," reads an April 28 motion filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Podolak and approved May 23 by Judge Raymond P. Moore.

The motion says more than 12 wiretaps were conducted, while the investigation includes approximately 2,754 pages of reports and photos.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com