Bond set at $20K for Bentley’s employee
ASPEN – A kitchen worker arrested Saturday at Bentley’s at the Wheeler on suspicion of dealing cocaine made his first court appearance Monday, while prosecutor Arnold Mordkin told a judge a warrant is being prepared for the apprehension of another suspect who worked at the downtown Aspen restaurant.
Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols doubled the bond amount from $10,000 to $20,000 for Aspen resident Raul Perez Cortes, 50, whom authorities say had 60 grams of uncut, pure cocaine and $2,500 in cash at the time of his arrest.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold has also been placed on Cortes. In court, Mordkin said the suspect does not have a criminal history but has used at least nine aliases over the years. The assistant district attorney added that “I believe he had been previously deported but I’m not positive of that.”
Nichols appointed Public Defender Tina Fang to represent Cortes. Nichols advised Cortes that if he’s convicted of the class-three felony charge, he faces a presumptive range of four to 16 years in the Department of Corrections.
Fang argued that the bond should remain at $10,000, while Mordkin lobbied for $25,000.
Nichols, while making her basis to set the cash-surety bond at $20,000, said the quantity of the schedule-two substance Cortes allegedly had at the time of the bust was a “very substantial amount of cocaine.”
“It might not be great in some other cities, but in Aspen that is a surprising amount to be found on one person,” she said.
Nichols also granted Mordkin’s request to keep the Bentley’s search warrant under seal because of the ongoing investigation.
“One person is a fugitive as a result of [Saturday’s bust],” he said, adding that “other persons are being investigated.”
In a related development Monday, the Aspen Police Department issued a press release saying that the suspect to whom Mordkin referred, also an employee at Bentley’s, was not present at the time of the bust. However, a search of the suspect’s home yielded 38 grams of cocaine that police confiscated, along with approximately $1,400 in cash.
Police Chief Richard Pryor, in a prepared statement, said that other Aspen businesses should take note of the Bentley’s case.
“We will take this opportunity to reach out to other licensed establishments, with the aim of preventing similar situations from developing in the future,” he said.
The other kitchen worker who was arrested Saturday – Vicente Vasquez Gomez, 27 – is scheduled to appear in Pitkin County Court Tuesday to face misdemeanor charges of providing a false name and false identification. He remains in the custody of the Pitkin County Jail.
Saturday’s sweep by police came after the Basalt Police Department several weeks ago received video evidence showing “individuals packaging a white powdery substance on food preparation surfaces in the kitchen at Bentley’s,” according to a press release from the APD.
Police served the search warrant on Bentley’s at approximately 10:45 a.m., before the business had opened. There were seven employees on duty at the time, including owner Andrew Petrillo. The front door was locked during the duration of the search, which lasted nearly three hours. The restaurant, located at the corner of Hyman Avenue and South Mill Street, opened later in the day.
The space Bentley’s occupies is owned by the city of Aspen, which is mulling over applications for a future tenant to take up the location. Petrillo is one the applicants seeking a new release, which will be extended by the city following a significant remodel.
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