Police hope drug bust makes a dent | AspenTimes.com

Police hope drug bust makes a dent

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario hopes what was called one of the largest drug busts in Western Slope history has put a big dent in the area’s drug activity.

But he’s not so naive as to think the laws of supply and demand won’t keep drugs flowing into the area.

“My issue is how long will that dent last before other people fill these shoes and start supplying?” he said Friday. “We know other people are going to step up and become suppliers.”

The Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team and the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested 30 people on drug distribution charges in connection with a drug trafficking organization known as “The Boys.” Suspects were living mostly from Rifle to Carbondale and most of the arrests occurred Wednesday and early Thursday.

The group allegedly sold cocaine, methamphetamines, LSD, ecstasy, psilocybin mushrooms and prescription medications. Investigation began in October and involved at least one confidential informant. Undercover TRIDENT officers also made controlled drug purchases and used things like preserialized money and wireless transmitters. A confidential informant, who was paid and/or receiving concessions from prosecutors, was at one point threatened with a handgun and accused of working with police. TRIDENT also said it was concerned the group used a handful teenagers as young as 14 to deliver drugs. The group included all kinds of people from ages 14 to 67.

Vallario didn’t say exactly how the investigation began. He said generally this type of operation starts with a tip, an informant connecting law enforcement with dealers, or by an undercover officer completing a drug deal.

The arrests garnered substantial media attention. Vallario said Wednesday he spoke to about 27 media outlets and had requests for five television interviews.

Vallario said the unique thing about this case is that TRIDENT developed it beyond a typical case that might net four or five arrests of street level dealers.

“It wasn’t a typical street-level type TRIDENT case,” he said, describing it as a “mid-level drug trafficking organization.”

TRIDENT said they discovered that “The Boys” imported large amounts of cocaine and meth from out of state into Glenwood Springs and Carbondale and then sold the drugs to lower level dealers. They believe dealers were graded on how much they sold and how much attention they drew from law enforcement.

Law enforcement always wants to climb the ladder to larger and larger drug sources, Vallario said, but in this case he can’t discuss what the next level of the organization is. He said it would be up to another agency like the DEA or a task force in another state to investigate the next level of the drug selling group.

He said basically all cocaine comes from Columbia and most methamphetamines are trafficked from Mexico. An arrest affidavit says one suspect’s source was in Texas. Another said an alleged dealer once had a meth delivery from Grand Junction.

“Glenwood Springs and Rifle, especially with the meth people, for whatever reason seems to be where we’re getting most of our (drug) arrests,” Vallario said.

TRIDENT believes the group’s drug sales probably extended into neighboring counties.

Vallario wouldn’t discuss whether the confidential informant mentioned in many of the arrest affidavits was getting cash or concessions from prosecutors or both.

Generally speaking, he said, an informant could get maybe $100 for introducing an undercover officer to a $200 to $300 cocaine deal.

Investigators executed four search warrants and seized about 65 pounds of marijuana, nine pounds of cocaine, over a pound of methamphetamines, ounces of hallucinogenic mushrooms and doses of LSD and ecstasy.

Vallario said eight more suspects in the drug case were still at large Friday afternoon. He credited the DEA for its help with the investigation.

“It’s just good drug work and what’s good about it is we were able to recognize this as a powerful drug trafficking organization and stay with it long enough to make a very, very good case,” Vallario said.

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