Feds break up local cocaine ring | AspenTimes.com

Feds break up local cocaine ring

Aspen Times Staff

Federal drug agents, working with local authorities, say they have dismantled a major area cocaine ring with the arrest of six suspects this week.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration today confirmed three more arrests, in addition to the three that have already been reported, including Monday’s arrest of Jose Jesus Sanchez-Ceja at an Aspen car wash where, according to agents, cocaine was being sold to customers.

Sanchez-Ceja was the ringleader for a cocaine distribution network that supplied customers and other dealers operating mostly in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties, according to a press release issued today by the DEA. The release offers new details regarding a 10-month investigation that resulted in this week’s drug busts, along with the roundup of suspected undocumented workers.

The DEA, working with area officers who are part of the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team, or TRIDENT, has seized nearly a half-kilogram of cocaine and about $64,000 in cash so far, according to Lou Vallario, Garfield County sheriff.

Sanchez-Ceja faces four charges in connection with his alleged activities, including the sale of cocaine from the car wash where he had worked for 13 years.

“Most of the cocaine transactions at the car wash were completed within minutes or even seconds,” said Jeffrey Sweetin, special agent in charge for the DEA’s Denver Field Division, in the press release. “We observed that cars would arrive to the wash bays and sit without ever getting washed. For these ‘regular’ customers, cocaine or money could be transferred between supplier and customer with little more than a discreet handshake.”

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Authorities nabbed Sanchez-Ceja after learning he was preparing to leave town.

“He was within minutes from slipping out of town when investigators found him as he waited outside a residence for an associate to pick him up. Fortunately, we picked him up first,” Sweetin said in the press release.

Over three days, the DEA and TRIDENT served seven search warrants at locations from Aspen to Silt. The searches included Sanchez-Ceja’s apartment in Eagle County, where investigators seized a about $31,000 in currency.

In addition to the alleged cocaine dealings, members of the group were involved in dispensing stolen property, negotiating the acquisition of firearms and other crimes, according to Vallario.

“We expect that additional arrests will be made,” he said.

Along with Sanchez-Ceja, authorities have also arrested Juvenal Rascon, 43; Ivan Dizan Rascon-Garcia, 32; Robert Ward Thompson, 45; Robert Alan Jackson, 36; and Kristie Goodhard, 48; on state drug-related charges. In addition, during execution of the search warrants, 36 individuals were identified as undocumented aliens and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the DEA.

See Friday’s Aspen Times for more on this week’s drug busts.