June 7, 2008

Huge Drug Bust Nets Numerous Suspects, Large Amount of Drugs in Greeley

By Mike Peters, Greeley Tribune, Colo.

Jun. 7--It began, according to law enforcement officers, with a routine drug investigation in Greeley last year. Then -- as more information was uncovered -- it grew to one of the largest drug busts in Greeley and Colorado history.

Seven police agencies armed with federal drug indictments for 23 people across the western United States disrupted a drug ring that began in Mexico and California and spread to Greeley.

In all, nearly 50 people were arrested on drug charges, stemming from federal distribution to local drug sales.

The ring was accused of bringing drugs into Greeley, then distributing it to northern Colorado and five other states.

In addition to the arrests, police and agents seized 15 pounds of methamphetamine, 2 kilos of cocaine, 1,013 pounds of marijuana, 10 weapons, $118,651 currency and four vehicles valued at more than $62,000.

Two organizations were involved n the smuggling-and-sale operation. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Weld County Drug Task Force officers identified the leaders of the first organization as Jose Feline Maya-Hernandez, 40, and Rail Tarciscio Gonzales Ruiz, 38, both of Greeley. The leaders of the second organization were identified as Jesus Noe Mendoza Ochoa, 30, Greeley, Jorge Jacquez Perez, 33 , Avon, and Bernardo Rascon-Mendoza, 34, of Chihuahua, Mexico. Those five suspects were arrested without incident.

The first indictment was returned on April 8, charging 15 defendants with 48 counts of illegal drug trafficking. The second indictment was returned on May 6, charging eight defendants with 37 counts of illegal drug trafficking.

Lt. Mark Jones, leader of the Weld County Drug Task Force, said Friday the arrests have been spread over the past several months, but they were kept quiet until the case was completed and all the major players were in jail.

The indictment states that the organization was responsible for the distribution of large amounts of methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana throughout northern Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota.

According to investigators, the organization obtained the drugs from Mexico, Texas, Arizona and California. The drugs were transported to Colorado in vehicles equipped with what the federal agents described as "sophisticated hidden compartments."

"Kudos to the DEA and the Weld County Drug Task Force," said U.S. Attorney Troy Eid in a press release Friday. Added DEA special agent in charge Jeffrey Sweetin, "The citizens of Colorado and the Weld County area are safer today as a result of this aggressive law enforcement action."

Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner: "We're proud of the fact that a very far-reaching case started with information developed by members of our drug task force.

"We are equally pleased with the results that came from excellent cooperation among local and federal law enforcement organizations. This is the kind of cooperation that should make the drug dealers afraid, and with good cause."

If convicted, the defendants face 5 to 40 years in federal prison, and up to a $2 million fine.

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Weld County Drug Task Force. Agencies involved in this investigation include the Greeley Police Department, Weld County Sheriff's Office, Evans Police Department, Front Range Task Force and the Colorado State Patrol. Multiple DEA offices assisted in the investigation, including officers in Los Angeles, Green Bay, Omaha and Des Moines.

Police also said the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have been involved and are still checking the citizenship status of the defendants.


The following is a list of the defendants arrested from the Greeley-Weld County area.

Aldo Sauz, 31, Greeley

Mirna Quintana-Mendoza, 27, Weld County

Alex Cantu, 25, Greeley

Anthony Cantu, 21, Greeley

Adrian Adame, 25, Greeley

Raul Tarciscio Ruiz-Gonzales, 38, Greeley

Tanya Cerda, 36, Greeley

Jeff Moreno, 28, Greeley

Daniel Strohm, 30, Greeley

Jesus Mendoza-Ochoa, 32, Weld County.

After his arrest, a search warrant at Mendoza-Ochoa's residence, 13474 Weld County Road 66, resulted in the seizure of $4,900 cash, two vehicles -- a 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche and a 2005 Nissan Titan -- two semi-automatic handguns, three rifles and 4.5 grams of cocaine.


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Copyright (c) 2008, Greeley Tribune, Colo.

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