GRAND JUNCTION, CO – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Bill Leone, United States Attorney for the District of Colorado, Jeffrey D. Sweetin, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Rocky Mountain Division, Jeffrey Copp, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Denver Office, Stan Hilkey, Mesa County Sheriff, and Greg Morrison, Grand Junction Chief of Police, announced that a federal grand jury in Denver, Colorado, today returned a 38 count indictment charging 11 people from the Grand Junction area with trafficking cocaine. Of the 11 indicted, five defendants were already in custody of ICE on immigration charges, and 4 were arrested today without incident. The other 2 defendants are considered fugitives from justice. The indictment is the result of a year long investigation by the DEA Western Colorado Drug Task Force into a cocaine drug trafficking organization operating in Grand Junction.
The drug trafficking organization, led by SALVADOR VERA-FIGUEROA, transported large quantities of cocaine from Mexico, across the Arizona border, to drug traffickers in Grand Junction, Colorado. The cocaine was distributed locally in the Grand Junction area and to several other states. To date, the DEA Western Colorado Drug Task Force has seized approximately 2.5 kilograms of cocaine and $50,000.00 in U.S. currency in connection with this investigation.
Charged in the indictment, and in custody are: JESUS VERA-FIGUEROA, JOSE MANUEL VERA-TOPETE, JAIME VERA-TOPETE, SALVADOR DOMINGUEZ-PARADA, JOSE CORDOVA-VASQUEZ, HERMES ARZAPALO, JOSHUA RODRIGUEZ, GWENDOLYN BALDWIN, ALBERTO VIVIAN-TELLECHEA.
Charged in the indictment, and considered fugitives from justice are: SALVADOR VERA-FIGUEROA, and CARLOS ARZAPALO.
“The Southwest border is the primary gateway for illegal drugs into the U.S. This investigation clearly illustrates a ‘cocaine highway’ running from Mexico, through Arizona, to the western slope of Colorado,” said Jeffrey Sweetin, DEA Special Agent in Charge. “Today’s arrests will impact the traffic on that highway and significantly diminish the availability of cocaine in Grand Junction.”
“The HIDTA task force combines not only the experience and talent of individuals from multiple law enforcement agencies,” said Jeffrey Copp, special agent-in-charge of the ICE Denver Office. “But the combination of law enforcement authorities also significantly enhances its success. ICE provides its unique and effective immigration and law enforcement authorities to attack illegal drug oranizations from various aspects.” Copp heads the ICE Office of Investigations, which includes the states of: Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
All defendants face a variety of drug distribution charges, including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine, which carries a penalty of not less than 5 years, and not more than 40 years in federal prison, and/or a $2,000,000 fine.
The defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Denver tomorrow.
This case was investigated by the Western Colorado Drug Task Force, which is comprised of the DEA, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, and the Grand Junction Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark Barrett.
The charges are only allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty.