Aug. 1 Bust Latest Chapter in West Slope Drug Wars
by Marta Tarbell
Aug 10, 2012 | 3993 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print

TELLURIDE – Six Mexican nationals were arrested Aug. 1 in raids on two Telluride apartments by officers of the Seventh Judicial Drug Task Force, who seized approximately one kilogram of cocaine and $30,000 in cash.

According to San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters, a vehicle used by the six men registered to Sergio Gonzalaz was searched during the raid; Gonzalaz’s name was on the lease of one of the two apartments searched in the raid, as well.

Gonzalaz is the brother of Maria Vargas Gonzalaz-Sanchez, who was arrested two years ago along with her husband, Eric Cristobal Sanchez and Marico Antonio Garcia-Garcia, at gunpoint, in one of three raids carried out simultaneously in Telluride and Montrose.

That raid, on Sept. 29, 2009, was conducted by officers from the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office and Telluride Marshal’s Office and TMO and nine other law-enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, Mountain Village Police Department, Montrose Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Durango Police Department, Southwest Drug Task Force, and Western Colorado Drug Task Force, netted five arrests, four firearms and more than 15 pounds of cocaine (almost seven kilograms), with an estimated $900,000 street value.

‘An Offshoot of the Taco Cart Investigation’

In each new chapter in the Western Slope drug wars, "The same people keep coming up,” San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters said this week.

One of the six men arrested last week “actually worked for Eric Sanchez…as an employee in one of the restaurants” raided in September 2009, Masters added.

“In a way, it was an offshoot of the taco cart investigation,” Masters said, of last week’s arrests, referring to La Tapatia taco cart, run until September 2009 by the affable Sanchez, one of three sites raided by simultaneously by more than a dozen officers on the day of his arrest in Montrose.

La Tapatia is across the street from apartment number 3 at 131 E. Colorado Ave., one of the two locales raided last week (the other was in the Boomerang apartment complex, 136 S. Tomboy Road, Apt. 208).

The Aug. 1 raid came on the heels of an “approximate seven month investigation,” according to a press release issued by the Seventh Judicial District Task Force, comprised of members of the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office, the Montrose City Police and County Sheriff’s Office and the Delta County Sheriff’s Office.

Asked why the investigation took seven months, Telluride Chief Marshal James Kolar, whose office  worked on the Telluride arrests, said officers were “working to identify people as co-conspirators.

“We were looking at more than just trying to arrest one individual,” he said, but rather “trying to take out an organization involved in trafficking.”

The four men arrested and charged with drug offenses on Aug. 1 are Prudencio Lopez-Montoya, 31; Ampelio Flores-Martinez, 29; Idelfonso de la Cruz , 25; and Alejandro Diaz de la Cruz, 42.  Also arrested and charged with crimes related to immigration violations were Geronimo de la Cruz, 21, and Lino Carrillo Diaz, 24. All six of the men who were arrested are undocumented Mexican nationals, Masters said.

Drug Cartel Distribution System ‘Probably Better Than Walmart’s’

Speaking generally, “and not specifically to this particular case,” Masters said that “99 percent of the cocaine these days is all controlled by Mexican drug cartels,” whose “distribution system is probably better than Walmart’s, as far as getting from South America and Mexico into the U.S., and distributing it from Nome to Miami, or the other way around.

“It’s all controlled pretty much by Mexican drug cartels,” he said, “and we are continuing to see these kinds of problems…throughout our judicial district.”

Perhaps the most notable omissions from the task force working on the Aug. 1 bust, due to state and federal budget constraints, are DEA and Colorado Bureau of Investigation officers. “We can no longer afford to run the drug task force” that effected the September 2009 raid, Masters said. And now, with just one CBI officer covering the entire Western Slope of Colorado, monitoring drug activity “really is a matter of local concern.

“We need to step up and take responsibility. We just can’t say, ‘Well, it’s the DEA’s problem, or the CBI’s problem, or anything else. It’s all of our problem. There are four agencies that contribute people right now – the Delta Sheriff’s Office, the Montrose Police Department, the Montrose County Sheriff’s Office, and we contribute one of the four people in the unit right now.

“We are always looking for more participation from other agencies to offset that.

“Other agencies contributed monetarily to the effort,” he said, including the Telluride Marshal’s Office and the Mountain Village Police, he said. “The real cost is in manpower and equipment and things like that,” he said, adding, “We hope to get more agencies to contribute people. We don’t have a CBI agent assigned to it any more, so we’re down one person there. For now, a sergeant in the Montrose Police Department is doing a really fine job.

“We’re really happy to have Montrose stepping up to help us out.  It’s also interesting that our own immigrant community is really concerned about this,” Masters said, “enough to call me and give me the information we need to help these cases move along.

“They don’t want these clowns dealing drugs, either,” he said.

As of now, Gonzalaz, “who said they were just friends he knew and he was doing them a favor,” faces no charges for holding the lease on the main street apartment and registration on the car searched in the raid, Masters said.

According to a press release issued last week, “agencies hold active arrest warrants for additional individuals involved in the investigation who may have returned to Mexico.”

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