The agent, who works on an area-wide drug task force, is not an authorized spokesman, and spoke anonymously.
“It was a fairly large case for us, big for around here,” he said of the Sept. 29 arrests of two people in Telluride and three in Montrose.
“Any time we can get five or six kilos off the street, it’s good. But there is no real connection. I’m sure some of the dope we got here was connected to a drug cartel, and it all goes back to Mexico, but it was not La Familia.”
San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters said he also doubts there is a connection, just a coincidence in timing. The La Familia arrests were a month later, on Oct. 21 and 22. Both were the result of lengthy investigations.
“I’m not aware of any direct connection,” Masters said. “It’s possible, but I don’t think so.”
The arrests in Telluride and Montrose were conducted with the cooperation of 11 agencies, including the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office, Mountain Village Police Department, Telluride Marshal’s Office, Durango Police, Montrose Police and the Seventh Judicial Drug Task Force.
The raid in Telluride was carried out on the morning of Sept. 29 when officers executed a search warrant at La Tapatia taco cart on Telluride’s main street, arresting Enrique Hernandez, 21; and Gilberto Garcia-Garcia, 34. Both are being held in the San Miguel County jail with bonds of $1 million each and are set to appear in San Miguel District Court at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 10.
At the same time, in Montrose, officers secretly watched a drug transaction in the Target parking lot and then moved in for the arrests, arresting Telluride residents Eric Cristobal Sanchez, 34; his wife, Maria Vargas Gonzalaz, also known as Maria Sanchez, 33; and Marico Antonio Garcia-Garcia, 26. All are being held at the Montrose County jail with bonds of $5 million each. Eric Sanchez is set for a preliminary hearing in Montrose District Court on Nov. 5 at 9 a.m. His wife will appear on Nov. 4 at 10 a.m. and Marico Garcia-Garcia’s next court appearance is Nov. 5 at 9 a.m.
All five suspects face multiple federal charges, from cocaine possession and distribution to unlawful purchase of firearms. Officials suspect that firearms were being brought to the U.S. and sent back to Mexico in exchange for cocaine.
Seized in the arrests were close to seven kilos of cocaine with an estimated street value of about $900,000.
The La Familia raids last week in 19 states are the largest single strike at Mexican drug operations in the U.S. and saw the arrest of more than 300 people, according to the Associated Press.
La Familia operates methamphetamine “super labs” in Mexico that produce up to 100 pounds in eight hours, said Michael Braun, former DEA chief of operations, according to the AP.
According to a recent article in the Denver Post, La Familia first gained attention in 2006 when more than a dozen masked men burst into a nightclub in Uruapan and tossed the heads of five drug dealers on the dance floor with the message: “The family doesn’t kill for money. It doesn’t kill women. It doesn’t kill innocent people, only those who deserve to die. Know that this is divine justice.”