Force Makes Record Meth Seizure
AUG 29--DENVER – United States Attorney Bill Leone, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Denver Field Division Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Jeffrey D. Sweetin, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement SAC Jeffrey Copp, Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey, and Grand Junction Police Chief Greg Morrison announced the seizure of nearly 22 pounds of meth and the arrest of Rafael Alvarez-Ibarra. Investigators assigned to the DEA High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force located in Grand Junction took pride in knowing that their work in this record seizure removed over 1 million dosage units of meth off our streets.
SAC Jeffrey D. Sweetin stated, “The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and the Grand Junction Police have clearly demonstrated their commitment to drug law enforcement. Task Forces operate locally, but no drug trafficking organization is local. Drug dealers take advantage of jurisdictional restrictions and are arrogant enough to think that they can move drugs up and down our highways with impunity. It takes a keen leader and a committed community to recognize the long term benefit of joining other law enforcement agencies like DEA and ICE in the battle against meth.”
Yesterday afternoon, a Task Force Officer stopped a Chrysler Town and Country van traveling east on Interstate 70 in Mesa County. The driver, Rafael Alvarez-Ibarra gave the Task Force Officer permission to search the van. The Task Force Officer’s canine gave a positive alert for the presence of drugs. The subsequent search lead to the discovery of a false compartment behind the firewall of the van. Located in the false compartment were twenty individually plastic wrapped packages containing approximately twenty-two pounds of meth. Task Force members described the meth as “ice” due to the glass shard like appearance of the meth. “Ice” is defined by having purity over 90%.
“We cannot afford to allow this highly destructive drug to continue to infiltrate and destroy the basic premise of a healthy society. We are thrilled that approximately 22 lbs. of methamphetamine will not be delivered into the hands of these criminals who have no consideration for the destructive impact this drug has on our community.”, stated Sheriff Stan Hilkey, Mesa County Sheriff’s Office.
Rafael Alvarez-Ibarra gave a home address of Los Angeles, California and told Task Force Officers that he had traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada to pick up the van and was on his way to Blaine, Minnesota. Alvarez-Ibarra stated that this was his second such trip from Las Vegas to Blaine. Task Force Offices will continue to follow leads stemming from the seizure and arrest. Grand Junction Chief of Police Greg Morrison summed it up saying, “22 pounds of meth are off the street because of the Task Force. This is a huge seizure made possible by good police work. Our efforts really paid off this time.”
The defendant will be charged by complaint with violations under Untied States Code Title 21, Section 841 (a)(1) and (b)(1)(A), Possession with Intent to Distribute methamphetamine. If convicted, the penalty is not less than 10 years and no more than life imprisonment; $4,000,000 fine or both; no less than 5 years supervised release; and a $100 special assessment fee. Rafael Alvarez-Ibarra’s initial appearance is scheduled for Monday, August 29, 2005 in Grand Junction, Colorado.
“We’re fortunate to be part of an extremely effective drug-enforcement task force with DEA,” said Jeffrey Copp, ICE Denver Special Agent in Charge. “These law enforcement partnerships are the best way to deal with insidious nature of drugs and drug smugglers.” Copp oversees a four-state area for the ICE Office of Investigations, which includes: Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
The DEA HIDTA Task Force is comprised of DEA, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and the Grand Junction Police Department. The charges are only allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty. For more information please contact U.S. Attorney’s Office Public Affairs Officer Jeffrey Dorschner at (303) 454-0243 or DEA Special Agent Karen Flowers at (303) 705-7351.
Digital photographs and video are available by request, please contact DEA Resident Agent in Charge Tom Gorman, (970) 683-3220.