Rick Carroll: Above the Fold | AspenTimes.com

Rick Carroll: Above the Fold

One of the lessons parents try to teach their preschool-age kids is not to be a tattletale. It would appear that’s the lesson Montgomery Chitty learned, but it came back to bite him.

Federal prosecutors in January said they aimed to put Chitty behind bars for at least 20 years, with the possibility of life, if he was convicted. It’s entirely plausible that Chitty, 61, could die an inmate after a federal jury in Denver last week convicted the former Aspen resident of conspiracy to sell more than 5 kilograms of cocaine. He’ll be sentenced May 28.

Last week’s trial came after, by all accounts, Chitty refused to cooperate with prosecutors by giving names and outing dealers. But a host of Aspen residents capitalized on the federal government’s system of rewarding those who rat out their colleagues.

• There was part-time Aspenite Larry Bartenfelder, who helped finance cocaine purchases for both Chitty and Wayne Reid, whom prosecutors painted as the mastermind behind an organized cocaine ring between Aspen and Los Angeles. Bartenfelder, according to coverage of last week’s trial by the Aspen Daily News, testified that he was given immunity from the prosecution. He also testified that he dealt drugs in Aspen for 20 years.

• There was Alfonso Elvao-Allocati, who testified that he and Chitty conducted regular drug transactions from 2002 to 2010. Elvao-Allocati is looking at 42 months of incarceration when he is sentenced April 22.

• There was Aspen Village resident Joe Burke, 65, who testified that Chitty tried to recruit him to deal coke. Burke, one of six Aspen-Snowmass residents arrested in the May 2011 drug raid, reached a plea that calls for no jail time. The deal will be formalized March 11.

• There was Reid, who, like Chitty, once did time for marijuana trafficking. But Reid has a pending plea deal that calls for four to eight years in prison – a stint significantly shorter than Chitty’s time. Reid’s plea agreement, however, sheds light on the reason his deal is a plum one compared with Chitty’s: “The defendant agrees to provide truthful, complete and accurate information, and agrees to cooperate fully with the government.”

That includes “his knowledge of all criminal activities,” says the plea document, dated Jan. 26, 2012. Reid will be sentenced March 18.

• And then there’s Christopher Sheehan, who will remain a free man (barring any future arrests) while Chitty winds his life down in a federal penitentiary. Like Reid, Sheehan also agreed to “cooperate fully” with the government. Sure, Sheehan, who already has been sentenced, also must get the government’s permission before he sells his Snowmass home. And upon the sale, he’s required to forfeit $250,000 to the feds. But compared with Chitty, that’s a paltry price for Sheehan to pay.

The math here says the five tattletales face a combined prison time, at most, of 111⁄2 years, not including the year Sheehan served. Chitty, meanwhile, awaits at least two decades.

This isn’t rocket science: Chitty was the sacrificial lamb because he kept his mouth shut – and also because he was friends with the past three Pitkin County sheriffs, all of whom the feds have lusted over for years but haven’t mustered an inkling of evidence to charge or prosecute – just enough innuendo to keep the rumor mill turning.

Now flash back to December 2005, when the Drug Enforcement Administration barnstormed a handful of downtown restaurants and bars, guns drawn, during happy hour. The bust netted a bunch of kitchen workers who were ultimately deported to their home countries. It also resulted in a five-hour public meeting at Aspen City Hall the following month. Then, Jeffrey Sweetin, a special agent for the DEA at the time, declared, “My guys will be back.”

Chitty attended that meeting and was vocal about his disdain for the December 2005 busts. Maybe he didn’t speak to the feds for the past year, but one has to wonder if his jabs at the DEA at the City Hall meeting didn’t come back to haunt him.

Whatever the case, this was the business Chitty chose. But so did the other ones, all in their 60s or 70s, who sold out Chitty in exchange for sweetheart deals or immunity. Justice got turned upside down in this case, one tainted by coke-peddling snitches, dealers who stayed in the game too long, confidential informants, backroom deals and a DEA hell-bent on making Aspen its prize catch, albeit 20 years late with a small fish like Chitty.

For Chitty, everything he didn’t say was held against him. Try explaining that one to a pre-schooler.

Rick Carroll is managing editor of The Aspen Times. He takes comments, complaints, questions and news tips at rcarroll@aspentimes.com.

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