Lawyer seeks informant’s identity in Aspen cocaine case
November 15, 2011
ASPEN – An attorney for a Snowmass Village man indicted on drug charges filed a motion Monday aiming to expose the identity of a confidential informant who was paid to go undercover for federal investigators as part of a year-long probe into an alleged cocaine network from Aspen to Los Angeles.
Monday was the motions deadline for the remaining defendants arrested earlier this year as part of a drug sweep by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Sixteen motions were filed in the U.S. District Court in Denver, along with a notice of disposition for Aspen resident Joan Anastasi, 67, who pleaded not guilty in June to cocaine charges. Anastasi’s attorney, James Jenkins of Boulder, declined to discuss the nature of the disposition.
With Anastasi’s case tentatively settled, three of the six local defendants remain on course for February’s scheduled trial – Jack Fellner, 61, and 65-year-olds Christopher Sheehan and Wayne Reid. The three were among 10 people a federal grand jury out of Denver indicted April 19. Nine of the 10 were arrested exactly one month later, on May 19. Two of the four California defendants also have reached dispositions, while one of them remains a fugitive.
Court records and testimony allege that Sheehan and Reid, who are being held without bond in Denver, had been doing business together for more than a decade. And the confidential source fed DEA agents with information linking the two together, documents allege.
Now Sheehan’s lawyer, Ariel Z. Benjamin of Denver, wants the source’s name revealed, and “requests the Government to disclose the identity and whereabouts of confidential Government informant whose testimony the Government intends to offer at the trial or who [was] utilized during the instant case investigation,” reads a motion.
The motion goes on to say that “voluntary disclosure by the Government should be encouraged for fundamental fairness, and to avoid a deprivation of due process of law to the Defendant.”
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Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, declined to discuss whether the prosecution will contest the motion.
“I can’t go into the substance of it,” he said. “I can simply say that we will file our response in due time and that will give … the answer.”
Benjamin could not be reached for comment.
The confidential informant, a woman, according to previous court testimony, had been working with agents from the DEA beginning in March 2010, says an application for a search warrant for Sheehan’s Juniper Hill Drive house. The application, prepared by David Storm of the DEA’s Glenwood Springs office, also notes the “informant is providing information in exchange for financial compensation.” Storm also referred to the informant as “credible and reliable” and a “personal associate of Reid.”
The warrant was signed by federal judge signed May 12. The warrant’s application was made public Monday, as an exhibit to a motion to suppress it.
According to application for the warrant, the tipster’s information provided to the DEA included the following:
– July 2010 – The source told agents that Reid was driving to California to buy 4 or 5 kilograms of cocaine. The information prompted agents to conduct a traffic stop on Reid on Interstate 70, leading to the seizure of $116,000 in cash from his vehicle.
– Sept. 24, 2010 – The informant is present at hotel room in Pasadena, Calif., where Reid sells 1 kilogram of cocaine to another defendant, Anthony Buchanan.
– Unknown date – The informant sees Reid provide Sheehan with approximately 5 ounces of cocaine “for further distribution.”-
Feb. 2, 2011 – The tipster tells DEA agents that Reid has arrangements to collect $10,000 from Sheehan to buy 10 ounces of cocaine.
– March 9 – The informant tells DEA agents that Sheehan has received 10 ounces of cocaine from Reid. The person also tells agents that Reid is seen packaging cocaine “distribution to his Aspen customers.”
The warrant also says that the informant had personally known Sheehan for “years,” during which time he “regularly” bought cocaine from Reid.
Benjamin’s motion to suppress evidence collected from Sheehan’s house says that there was not probable cause for the issuance of the warrant, which “was executed illegally and the scope of the search exceeded the matters set forth in the warrant.”
Another motion, which Benjamin also filed, asks for details surrounding the dispositions reached for other defendants in the case, in an effort to see if any of them were granted immunity or preferential treatment in exchange for information that could be used to bolster the prosecution against Sheehan.
In other developments Monday, the attorney for Aspen defendant Jack Fellner, 61, filed a motion seeking to sever him from the February trial so that he can have his own. Entered by Denver attorney Abraham Hutt, the motion argues that the “quality and quantity of evidence to be introduced against co-defendants [Reid, Sheehan and one California defendant] is far greater than any evidence which would be admissible against Mr. Fellner in a separate trial.” In essence, Fellner would “be denied of his right to a fair and independent evaluation of the evidence against him,” the motion says.
Feds say the drug ring imported 200 kilograms between Aspen and Los Angeles over a 15-year period. The network also had ties to Mexican drug cartels, feds claim.