Aspen man arrested in multistate drug bust
An Aspen man was arrested Tuesday morning by federal agents for allegedly playing a role in a multistate drug ring that smuggled millions of dollars in heroin, cocaine and marijuana into the country from Mexico.A Snowmass man is also charged in the case and is considered a fugitive.Aspen resident Thomas Blank, 65, was arrested without incident as he arrived at work in Aspen, according to Steve Sperry, the resident agent in charge with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Grand Junction office. Police were searching for Snowmass resident Glen Fuller, 50.Both men are charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute. Sperry said he could not release many details about the case, but said the men are allegedly associated with a larger group that was trafficking cocaine in the country.He would not specify what the DEA believes the men’s role is within the organization. A DEA agent from Chicago and two agents from the Grand Junction office arrested Blank.”The indictments came out of Chicago, so Blank was taken before a federal judge in Denver this morning, and he’ll be extradited back to Chicago to stand trial,” Sperry said. No bond was set for him.According to The Associated Press, two customs and border protection officers and 16 others, including Sperry and Fuller, were accused on Tuesday of being part of the drug ring.Nine of those charged, including the custom officers at Midway Airport in Chicago, were detained Monday night and Tuesday. Four people were taken into custody in California and Colorado, and five are fugitives.The arrests were part of Operation Money Clip, a multijurisdictional investigation that targeted and dismantled an international money laundering and drug trafficking organization. At least 83 people have been arrested.”We’ve successfully plugged a significant pipeline of drugs to Chicago and halted the flow of cash back to the suppliers,” said Richard W. Sanders, special agent in charge of the Chicago office of the DEA.Operation Money Clip began in 2003 with a traffic stop in Texas with the seizure of $2.2 million and led to wiretaps in Los Angeles and Chicago.According to a DEA news release, Operation Money Clip has so far resulted in 26 different seizures in several states for a total of $4.4 million, 2,526 kilograms of cocaine, 74 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, 2.8 pounds of methamphetamine, 39,265 pounds of marijuana and 1 kilogram of heroin.The release says that DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy directed the operation, to focus on the “abilities, methods and routes used to smuggle large amounts of currency from the United States to the sources of drug supply in Mexico and other foreign countries.” She is quoted as saying that the operation has taken away the profits and drugs involved in these operations, and arrested key leadership.In this specific arrest, customs and border protection officers Jaime Garcia, 27, and Alma O. Teran, 28, were arrested at Midway Airport. DEA officials said the two officers used law enforcement databases to determine if agents were investigating members of the organization, including themselves.Salvador Mendoza, 32, of Bloomington, Calif., was accused of being the head of the drug ring’s Los Angeles cell. Jose Urena, 28, and Lino Iniguez, 37, were accused of being the leaders of the Chicago cell. Officials said drugs were sold in New York and Milwaukee.The list of others charged includes a group of people in Chicago, Mexico and California, as well as Blank and Fuller in the Roaring Fork Valley.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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