Cops: Aspen parents face felony charges after giving coke to minor, alcohol to others
An Aspen teen and his parents were charged Monday with giving cocaine and alcohol to underage high school students during parties at their home near Aspen Highlands, according to court documents.
Joseph Lipsey IV, 19, was arrested Monday on his way to Aspen High School, and his mother Shira Lipsey, 44, was arrested at her home. Both were charged with multiple counts, including felonies, and released after each posting $100,000 cash-only bonds.
Lipsey is the same teen charged in January with two counts of felony vehicular assault after he was alleged to have been at the wheel of a Tesla sport-utility vehicle in November that flew off Maroon Creek Road, injuring himself and four other local high school students inside.
Lipsey’s father — Joseph Lipsey III, 56 — also faces charges connected to the alleged parties thrown at his home, said Aspen Deputy District Attorney Don Nottingham.
“Joseph Lipsey III, based on reports from community members and people familiar with the family, spends much of his time out of the Aspen area,” according to his wife’s arrest warrant affidavit unsealed Monday in Pitkin County District Court. “The family owns or manages several companies and corporations.”
Both parents were charged with distribution of cocaine to a minor, among other charges, which is considered a Class 1 drug felony under Colorado law. If convicted of just the distribution charge, each parent would face a mandatory sentence of between eight and 32 years in prison, Nottingham said.
Their son faces two counts of distribution of drugs to minors, among other charges, though those counts are Class 3 drug felonies because he was less than two years older than those he allegedly provided drugs.
A message left on Shira Lipsey’s cellphone seeking comment Monday was not returned. Her son’s Eagle-based attorney also didn’t return a phone message Monday.
Evidence collected by investigators from both the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and the Aspen Police Department includes cellphone Snapchat videos shot by an Aspen High School student that allegedly show Shira Lipsey sitting in front of a plate featuring “a pile of an unknown white powder,” according to the affidavit.
Another video allegedly shows Shira Lipsey, her son and an unidentified man sitting on a couch in front of a table featuring a white-powder dusted credit card, a rolled-up dollar bill and three green straws, one in front of each of them.
“Before sending the photo, the user put the text, ‘This kid’s parents are tryna kill me,’ on the screen with the video’s image,” the affidavit states.
Those two videos were both time-stamped about 2:45 a.m. on Jan. 3.
A third video — shot at 3:45 a.m. on Jan. 3 — shows the same plate in the first video with a “pile of white powder,” along with the same credit card and a green straw on the table. Before sending out that video, the user typed the text, “Almost did it all” to go along with the video, according to the affidavit.
And while none of the videos explicitly show the Lipseys giving cocaine to a minor, other high school kids saw the plate of cocaine upstairs at their home that night, and one allegedly saw the Lipseys and their son pass the plate to a minor, who inhaled “some lines,” the affidavit states.
That story came from the mother of an Aspen High School student, who did not want to speak to police for fear of being labeled “a snitch,” according to Shira Lipsey’s arrest warrant affidavit.
The mother said her son told her he was downstairs at the Lipsey home the night of Jan. 2, when he and others realized one of their friends was missing. They went upstairs and saw their friend sitting at the dining room table with the Lipseys and a younger couple, the affidavit states.
“And Mr. Lipsey (J. Lipsey SENIOR) … was passing around a plate of cocaine, and (the missing friend) did some lines, (and) passed it,” the mother told police, according to the affidavit. “I guess it ended up with Mrs. Lipsey … She passed it to her son, Joe. … He did a couple lines.”
The woman said her son told her that when he saw the incident, he “felt like throwing up” and “didn’t know what to do,” the affidavit states.
The son told her: “Mom, it was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. They were making it look normal, like they were passing around vitamins.”
Finally, in a search of the Lipsey home Feb. 19, police officers and deputies found “a collection of items … likely to be used” for freebasing or smoking cocaine that included charred tin foil and a crystalline powder-caked spoon, baggies of white powder that tested positive for cocaine, numerous pills including Xanax and Alprazolam that didn’t accompany prescriptions and codeine syrup, according to the affidavit.
“This is an ongoing investigation,” Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Monday. “There’s still some work to be done on this case and others (related to it). I don’t want to (comment further) and jeopardize the others.”
The investigation into the Lipseys grew out of an Aspen police investigation into the Jan. 2 burglary and theft of alcohol from the Mountain Chalet lodge in downtown Aspen, and related vandalism at another hotel, Nottingham said.
Two of the three Aspen teenagers arrested in connection with that case were also at the Lipsey home the night of Jan. 2, according to the affidavit and law enforcement sources.
Those two teens and several others told police about being at the Lipsey home on different occasions when underage kids were drinking in the presence of the Lipsey parents, according to Shira Lipsey’s affidavit. One said he’d seen Joseph Lipsey III unlock a liquor cabinet, distribute alcohol to minors and “make statements such as ‘be safe, have fun,’” the affidavit states.
The minor who made that statement was at the Lipsey home the night of Jan. 2 and said he saw the plate of cocaine while he was upstairs, secretly filmed it and the men sitting in front of it and sent the video to his friends on Snapchat. Another minor told police he saw Joseph Lipsey III carry the plate of cocaine into the living room that night, and saw people sniff the drug while about 15 high school-age kids were in the home, the affidavit states.
A third teenager at the home Jan. 2 also told police he saw the yellow plate of cocaine on the table, according to the document.
One of those teens also said he has ingested Xanax, MDMA and a drink called Lean, which generally contains codeine syrup, all of which he received from Joseph Lipsey IV, according to the affidavit.
Joseph Lipsey IV is charged with two counts of felony distribution of drugs, felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor, four counts of possession of a controlled substance, three counts of possession or consumption of alcohol or marijuana by a minor, possession of drug paraphernalia and furnishing tobacco or nicotine products to minors.
Joseph Lipsey III had not yet been arrested as of Monday evening.
His wife and son were released from the Pitkin County Jail about 40 minutes after they were booked Monday morning when a family associate arrived with $200,000 in cash, according to DiSalvo.
Shira Lipsey is charged with felony distribution of cocaine, three counts of felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor and three counts of serving alcohol to a minor. The exact charges for Joseph Lipsey III were not available Monday.
“The Lipsey family has few local connections to the community,” according to the affidavits for Shira Lipsey and her son.
The family owns a spring water company based in Atlanta as well as several other businesses, the affidavit states.
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The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office is taking the lead in trying to close a gaping hole in the investigation of crimes in the upper Roaring Fork Valley by purchasing license plate-reading cameras likely to be used at the chokepoint entry and exits to Aspen.