Aspen man arrested on heroin suspicion
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” A local man faces charges connected to heroin distribution following an investigation into the March overdose death of an Aspen resident.
Aspen resident Ryan Welgos, 30, and Nelson Raul-Gamez, 24, of Aurora, were arrested in Silverthorne on June 19, according to a news release issued Wednesday by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The two have been charged with conspiracy to distribute a schedule II substance, distribution of a schedule II substance, possession of a schedule II controlled substance with intent to distribute, and possession of a schedule II controlled substance, according to the news release.
All told, 43.5 grams of heroin were seized as part of the investigation, court documents allege. Authorities believe Raul-Gamez was Welgos’ chief source of heroin, which he allegedly distributed in the Aspen area.
The two were advised of the charges Jan. 20. Both remained in Garfield County Jail on Wednesday afternoon. A bond of $42,500 has been set for Raul-Gamez; no bond has been set for Welgos, a jail official said.
District Attorney Martin Beeson did not return a telephone message seeking comment Wednesday. But Jeffrey Sweetin, who heads the Denver office of the DEA, said the overdose and arrests should send a message about the presence of heroin in Aspen.
“Places like Aspen have said that they like coke and weed and it’s recreational,” he said in a telephone interview. “But people who drive heroin to Aspen don’t care. Whatever is happening in Denver or Grand Junction is happening in Aspen because there’s a market for it. We know it’s there.”
Sweetin said that to the best of his knowledge, Welgos and Raul-Gamez were the primary source of heroin purchases in the Aspen area.
Aiding in the investigation was the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Agency (TRIDENT). Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, who heads TRIDENT’s board, said in a statement: “As a result of this case, dangerous heroin was removed from our streets and nobody else will have to die because of this distribution group. If found guilty, we hope they will receive the maximum sentences allowable to prevent them from harming anyone else.”
The investigation into both suspects was spurred by the March 23 death of Aspen resident Adam Peterson. According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Peterson died after shooting up heroin and cocaine, a method known as speed-balling.
The Aspen Police Department was the investigative agency into Peterson’s death. Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said that an Aspen officer spoke to a DEA agent about the fatality, which triggered the investigation by the DEA and TRIDENT.
Authorities believe Welgos supplied Peterson with the heroin that led to his overdose, and upon further investigation, the DEA learned that Welgos also supplied the heroin that caused an overdose in Garfield County, the affidavit alleges.
The DEA fingered Welgos by launching an undercover probe in which DEA officer Justin Wareham made Welgos’ acquaintance and inquired about acquiring some heroin. The two met at Welgos’ Aspen residence in May, hatching a relationship in which they talked about Peterson’s death, the potential for heroin distribution in Garfield County, and Welgos’ affinity for the drug, the affidavit says.
On their return home from their first road trip together, which they took to Evergreen to purchase seven grams of heroin, they pulled over at a Starbucks in Dumont. When Wareham and another confidential informant went inside to grab some coffee, Welgos went behind the coffee shop to smoke some heroin, the affidavit says.
“He stated to me that he had smoked three hits and had thrown up which was normal for him … [he] stated about the three hits of heroin that he had smoked and how much better he felt,” Wareham wrote in the affidavit. “I observed that his pupils were constricted but he was experiencing itchy sensations and hot flashes over his body during our drive home. Several times he had his shoes off and was scratching his feet and he rolled the window down to cool himself off.”
Later, the trio stopped by a Basalt home, where Welgos allegedly dropped off some heroin before Wareham dropped Welgos off at his Aspen home. Wareham then returned to the joint office of the DEA and TRIDENT in Glenwood Springs, where the substance he had bought tested positive for heroin, the affidavit says.
The next purchase came on June 19, the day Welgos and Raul-Gamez were arrested. That day, Wareham picked up Welgos in Aspen. The two then headed for Silverthorne. Along the way, Welgos told Wareham he was going to buy some heroin for his boss and a friend, the affidavit alleges. Also, Welgos said that he planned to sell the heroin for $200 a gram, twice the amount for which he would buy it.
Wareham and Welgos eventually arrived at the parking lot of McDonald’s in Silverthorne, the affidavit says. Wareham provided Welgos with $1,200 for a a purchase, and when Welgos returned he was arrested, the affidavit says.
“At that time the takedown was initiated,” the affidavit says. “While affecting the arrest Ryan Welgos dropped the plastic bag and several small black baggies of heroin scattered on the pavement. Ryan Welgos and the other suspects were taken into custody. The heroin was collected from the pavement for a total of fifteen individual baggies which I turned over to DEA …”