DENVER – 13 April 2012 – Oscar Arriola was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Blackburn to serve 22.5 years in federal prison for drug trafficking related charges, United States Attorney John Walsh and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Barbra Roach announced. Following his prison sentence, Arriola was ordered to serve 5 years on supervised release. He was also ordered by Judge Blackburn to pay a $1,000,000 fine.

Arriola was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on December 16, 2003. On February 2, 2006, Arriola was arrested in Mexico by Mexican authorities, and held in custody until his extradition from the Republic of Mexico to the United States. The extradition took place on March 2, 2010 so that Arriola could face the Colorado drug trafficking charges. On February 22, 2011 Arriola pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, conspiracy to import 5 kilograms or more of cocaine into the United States, and money laundering conspiracy. The defendant was sentenced on April 13, 2012.

According to court documents, the DEA Colorado Springs Resident Office initiated an investigation in June 2002 that eventually led to the identification of Oscar Arriola as the head of an international cocaine trafficking organization that smuggled and distributed more than two tons of cocaine per month in the United States. In addition, the Arriola organization allegedly collected hundreds of millions of dollars in drug proceeds in the United States and transported the cash to Arriola and other leaders of the organization in Mexico.

The Colorado Springs investigation began with an anonymous telephone tip to a Pueblo, Colorado crime stoppers tip line regarding a ranch property in Peyton, Colorado (east of Colorado Springs) that was suspected of being used to store large shipments of cocaine. During a lengthy investigation, agents determined that the Peyton ranch served as a cocaine storage and transportation center for the Arriola organization.

From 2002 through 2004, DEA offices in Colorado Springs, Denver, El Paso, Chicago, New York, Albuquerque, North Carolina, and Mexico coordinated investigative efforts against the Arriola organization. Law enforcement officers in the U.S. and Mexico seized more than 5,000 pounds of cocaine, approximately $50,000,000 in cash and other assets, and arrested 60 key members of the Arriola organization in the U.S.

Agents obtained evidence indicating that the organization had extensive U.S. cocaine distribution networks in Texas, Colorado, Illinois, New York, Georgia, Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Maryland, Indiana, Michigan, Kansas, New Jersey, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. The organization allegedly had dozens of drug and money transporters operating almost non-stop, delivering cocaine to the U.S., then collecting the drug proceeds and delivering them to the Arriola organization bosses in Mexico. One money transporter stated that he alone had collected and transported $43,000,000 in a 12-month period.

“I would like to thank the many people that worked tirelessly to bring Oscar Arriola to justice,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “Thanks goes to the men and women of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for consistently pursuing this defendant. Special thanks goes to the many DEA agents that worked both here and in Mexico to document Arriola’s large scale drug trafficking. Lastly, I’d like to thank those with the Department of Justice in Washington who assisted in the extradition of Arriola from Mexico to Colorado.”

“The most significant international drug trafficking organization ever to operate in the state of Colorado ended today with the sentencing of its leader, Oscar Arriola,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Barbra Roach. “With this sentencing, our message is that the DEA will continue to focus its resources on those major organizations operating in our state which are profiting significantly from the sale of illegal drugs.”

The U.S. Marshals Service assisted in the extradition of Arriola. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance in the extradition as well.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys M.J. Menendez and Susan “Zeke” Knox.

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