Redstone pot seizure one for the ages
December 18, 2007
REDSTONE ” The 800 pounds of pot federal officials seized in Redstone in April was one of the largest busts ever in Pitkin County, according to local officials.
The stash of large plastic-wrapped bales of marijuana held in a home in Redstone was enough to overflow a standard pick-up truck bed, according to Ron Ryan, director of investigations with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. Ryan assisted federal U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials with the bust.
“That is the largest quantity that I have ever worked on,” Ryan said.
The Redstone seizure was part of a larger investigation implicating Donald Teeple, 61, of Redstone; Thomas Blank, 68, of Carbonale; and James Wingers, 63, of Aspen. Court documents name the trio, who were arrested Dec. 7 and Dec. 8, as couriers in a drug ring run by Peter Israel of Telluride.
Papers filed Nov. 29 in federal court in Wisconsin allege that more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana passed from sources in Arizona through stash houses in Silt and Redstone before being sold in Milwaukee, Wis. Last week the allegations were introduced in court documents filed in the U.S. District Court of Denver.
The complaint also implicates Contreras-Magellanas’ cousin, Daniel Cocoa-Vega of Arizona.
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DEA officials in Denver would not comment on the ongoing probe, and DEA Special Agent Dave Storm, whose office covers the region, said the investigation did not stop with the arrest.
But Storm said the confiscated quantities were unusually large.
“Our valley is more of a user valley,” Storm said. “People here tend to be users, more than large-scale traffickers.”
Sheriff Bob Braudis said, “That’s as big a pot bust as I can remember in Pitkin County.”
The market in Pitkin County is not that big, Braudis said, and law enforcement officials rarely see that kind of quantity.
While the Interstate 70 corridor is a known drug-trafficking lane, Braudis said he doesn’t think Highway 82 is part of the network.
“I don’t think Highway 82 is one of the pipelines, especially since (the stretch east of Aspen) is closed most of the year,” he said.
Braudis said the DEA informed him before the April bust was made, but advance notices didn’t used to be the norm.
In 2004, the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team raided the Redstone Inn without informing Braudis, prompting the sheriff to file a complaint with the organization’s board.
And DEA raids of Cooper Street Pier and Little Annie’s Eating House in December 2005 went down without Braudis’ knowledge, even though the Aspen Police Department participated in the drug sweeps.
Communication has “ebbed and flowed” over the years, but Braudis said things are “pretty copacetic” between the DEA and the sheriff’s department these days.
“I didn’t know much because [the investigation] didn’t involve much of Pitkin County activity,” Braudis said.
And county deputies regularly assist the DEA and vice-versa, Braudis said.
Braudis, however, was not informed of the Dec. 12 arrest of Wingers in Aspen.
A uniformed Aspen police officer rode along to the arrest in a neighborhood near the Centennial apartment complex, according to the Aspen Police Department.
Braudis found out about the arrest when Wingers was reported to be missing.
“I got a missing person’s report from his roommate in the early part of this week,” Braudis said. A data search, conducted by the sheriff’s office, revealed Wingers was being held on a federal marshal’s warrant in Mesa County.
“It was just a lack of communication that we didn’t know he’d been hooked up,” Braudis said, adding that DEA officials in Glenwood Springs usually hold up their end of an information-sharing agreement.
“I’ve known Wingers for 35 years,” Braudis said, adding Wingers is a “hard-working guy” not known for any criminal activity.
“I had no idea that he was allegedly in the transportation business,” Braudis said.