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DEA Takes Down Cortez Area Methamphetamine Trafficking Organization

DENVER, CO – Earlier this week the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)-led Southwest Drug Task Force and the 22 nd Judicial District Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force arrested five people responsible for trafficking highly pure methamphetamine in the Cortez area, U.S. Attorney John Walsh and Acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Merrill announced today. Five of the eight defendants were arrested yesterday without incident. The other three defendants were already in custody prior to yesterday’s enforcement action. The arrests were the result of a federal grand jury indictment. 

During the course of this two-year investigation, agents and task force officers seized over 6.5 pounds of highly pure methamphetamine, 7 firearms, including SKS assault rifles, and $25,670 in U.S. currency. Those charged in the indictment include:

Hilario Quintero-Rodriguez, 40 years of age, arrested recently in California
Abel Sanchez-Leon, 37 years of age, arrested in the Cortez area
Octavio Quezada-Perez, 46 years of age, arrested in Farmington, New Mexico
Flodina Beletso Gallegos, 28 years of age, arrested in the Cortez area
Guadalupe Ruiz-Guardado, 50 years of age, held on state charges
Julio Mares-Ruiz, 25 years of age, arrested in the Cortez area
Luis Jorge Martinez-Valdiva, 35 years of age, held on prior federal charges
Robert Mason Byas, 60 years of age, held on state charges.

All eight defendants face drug trafficking charges, including conspiracy to unlawfully and knowingly possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 500 grams or more methamphetamine. The maximum penalty the defendants face is not less than 10 years, and not more than life in federal prison, as well as a fine of up to $4,000,000.

“Thanks to the hard work of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Southwest Drug Task Force, and the 22 nd Judicial District Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force, eight defendants have been charged and arrested, effectively removing them from our streets,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh.

“The drug methamphetamine is a danger to the health and safety of our families and communities in Colorado,” said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Merrill. “We hope the arrests we are announcing today sends a message to those that are profiting from the distribution of this dangerous drug – that the DEA will consider investigations of methamphetamine dealers to be a DEA priority in this state and we will continue to target those who choose to involve themselves in this illegal activity.” 

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) with assistance from the Southwest Drug Task Force, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the 22 nd Judicial District Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force.

The defendants are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James Boma.

The charges contained in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


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