DENVER -LAWFUEL – Legal News Network – This past weekend two Mexican nationals, Miguel Angel Arriola Marquez and Saul Saucedo Chaides, were extradicted by Mexican authorities to the United States. Their extradition was based on an indictment obtained by a federal grand jury in Denver in 2003 for their involvement in a very large scale drug trafficking organization located in Peyton, Colorado. Provisional arrests warrants were obtained and later executed following the indictments. The defendants were flown from Mexico to Houston, Texas, where they appeared before a federal judge. Following a judge’s order of removal, the two defendants will then be returned to Colorado for trial.
The defendants are:
Miguel Angel Arriola Marquez was indicted in the District of Colorado with a conspiracy to import cocaine and a conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, as well as with conspiring to launder millions of dollars which represented drug proceeds.
Saul Saucedo Chaides was indicted in the District of Colorado with conspiracy to distribute narcotics, a conspiracy to import narcotics, and with narcotics-related money laundering.
“For the longest time, Mexican drug lords have lived in comfort, protected from prosecution, while profiting off of Americans’ vices,” said United States Attorney Troy Eid. “The extradition of these defendants demonstrates that those days may finally be over.”
“The extradition of these two high level drug traffickers from Mexico serves as a reminder of the importance of Colorado’s role in the international war on drugs,” said Jeffrey Sweetin, Special Agent in Charge of the Denver Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Background information regarding Operation Choque
In March 2002, the DEA’s Colorado Springs office initiated an investigation into a group utilizing a 500 acre rural ranch property in Peyton, Colorado, a base of operations to transport large shipments of cocaine and drug proceeds. The investigation was coordinated nationally and identified a far reaching and sophisticated organization headed by the Arriola brothers and Saucedo with cells in several U.S. cities.
The alleged leaders of the organization were identified as Miguel Angel Arriola-Marquez and Saul Saucedo. Approximately 2,300 kilograms (approximately 5,000 pounds) of cocaine and $11 million in drug proceeds have been seized to date in this investigation. The investigation also revealed that one courier alone transported over $43 million to Mexico during a twelve (12) month time period.
One of the cells of this organization utilized a 500 acre rural ranch located in Peyton, Colorado, to offload and store multi-hundred kilogram quantities of cocaine smuggled in tractor trailers from Mexico into Colorado. The cocaine was then transferred to other drivers who would then transport the cocaine to Chicago, New York City and other U.S. cities.
Once the cocaine was sold, the drug proceeds were collected and often transported back to the same ranch location in Peyton, Colorado. The investigation revealed that up to $2.5 million at a time would be collected and transported by the organization’s couriers. From the ranch, the money would be delivered the kingpins in Mexico. The organization also controlled a residence in El Paso, Texas where the drug proceeds were frequently delivered. Once the drug proceeds reached the El Paso residence, the proceeds would be loaded into vehicles with hidden compartments and then driven from the United States to Mexico.
The investigation also revealed that Saucedo and Arriola directed the cocaine distribution and money collection activities of their subordinates in several U.S. cities. DEA agents in Chicago, New York, El Paso and Mexico coordinated their efforts with the investigative action being taken in Colorado Springs. As a result, key organization members were arrested throughout the United States and seizures of cocaine and drug proceeds were made in several cities.
While the ranch in Peyton, Colorado was a major transshipment point for the organization and much of the organization’s cocaine was shipped to locations east of Colorado, distributors also operated along the Front Range of Colorado. Cocaine distribution cells were identified in Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Denver and Greeley, leading to drug seizures and arrests of organization members in those cities.
A number of significant drug and asset seizures have occurred as a result of this investigation.
On January 24, 2003, the Pennsylvania Highway patrol seized 265 kilograms of cocaine destined for New York City. Subsequently, agents seized approximately $1.4 million U.S. currency.
On March 6, 2003, undercover agents of the CSRO purchased one kilogram of cocaine from members of the organization.
On May 22, 2003, the CSRO seized 270 pounds of marijuana, 5 weapons and $143,000 U.S. currency in Woodland Park, Colorado.
On May 25, 2003, CSRO agents seized approximately $2 million U.S. currency in Pueblo, Colorado.
On July 24, 2003, agents seized approximately $300,000 U.S. currency in Chicago, Illinois.
On July 30, 2003, agents seized approximately $700,000 U.S. currency in El Paso, Texas.
On August 18, 2003, agents seized approximately 14 kilograms of cocaine and an assault rifle in Pueblo, Colorado.
On September 15, 2003, agents seized 548 kilograms of cocaine in Chicago, Illinois.
On October 20, 2003, agents seized approximately $1.4 million U.S. currency in New York City, New York.
On October 28, 2003, agents seized approximately $530,000 U.S. currency in Delaware.
On November 17, 2003, agents seized approximately $1.6 million U.S. currency in Chicago, Illinois.
Those arrested were charged federally with cocaine importation and distribution, conspiracy and money laundering. Depending on the charge and the amount of drugs the defendants are alleged to have trafficked, they face prison terms of anywhere from five (5) years to life and fines ranging from $250,000 to $4,000,000.
This organization imported up to 600 kilograms of cocaine per week into the United States and transported millions of dollars per week in drug proceeds from the United States back to Mexico.The mission of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminal and civil justice system of the United States, or any other competent jurisdiction, those organizations and principal members of organizations, involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States; and to recommend and support non-enforcement programs aimed at reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances on the domestic and international markets.