Area immigration bust nets 30 suspects | AspenTimes.com

Area immigration bust nets 30 suspects

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Contributed photoOne of the suspects had what authorities believe is a gang-related tattoo on his chest.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Local, state and federal authorities rounded up 30 alleged gang members and gang associates from towns around Garfield County and beyond this week, many of whom are likely to be deported back to their “home countries,” according to official statements.

The arrestees – 26 men and four women, whose names have not been released – were from Western Slope towns and are believed to have been involved in gang-related criminal activities for some time, according to a release from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Office of Homeland Security.

According to a breakdown from ICE, of those arrested 11 were from Carbondale, six from El Jebel, six from Rifle, five from Glenwood Springs, one from Battlement Mesa and one from Montrose.

Nearly all of the arrests, said Carl Rusnok of ICE, were for alleged immigration violations, including returning to the U.S. after being deported, which is a felony.

One El Jebel arrestee is accused of possessing cocaine when he was arrested, and a Carbondale suspect is said to have been convicted of sexual abuse of a minor, Rustok said.

The gangs that the arrestees are believed to have been members of, or associated with, include the Bloods, the Mexican Mafia-Azteca, MS 13, SUR 13 and Surenos, according to ICE.

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“The idea of the operation is to get the gang members off the streets,” he said, referring to the work of Operation Community Shield, which has been doing this kind of work since its inception in 2005. The OCS operation mainly was aimed at the MS 13 gang initially, but its scope has since been expanded to other gangs, Rusnok said.

He said the main local agencies involved in the operation, which began three and a half months ago, were the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and the Carbondale Police Department, though other regional authorities also were involved.

“Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and our specialized Threat Assessment Group (TAG) played an integral role with ICE in this week’s anti-gang operation,” said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario. “During the 18 months of its existence, TAG was specifically designed to address gang-related activity, and remove criminal aliens from our streets.”

From Carbondale, Police Chief Gene Schilling said, “We appreciate ICE’s efforts that resulted in several arrests of suspected gang-affiliated persons which contribute to the improvement of the quality of life within the community.”

ICE reported that two U.S. citizens and two illegal-alien gang members were arrested on state criminal arrest warrants or charges, three from Garfield County and one from Eagle County.

The statement declared that ICE and other agencies have reason to believe that “criminal gangs, such as the Surenos and others, are becoming increasingly involved in Colorado with smuggling and distributing narcotics and other criminal activities.”

Rustok said no injuries or violence were reported to have occurred during the arrests, which started five days ago and ended on Friday.

jcolson@postindependent.com

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