News and Press Releases

May 10, 2010



DENVER – Miguel Arriola, age 42, of Mexico, was sentenced late Friday afternoon, May 7, 2010, by U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Blackburn to serve 240 months (20 years) in federal prison, followed by 4 years of supervised release, for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, conspiracy to import 5 kilograms or more of cocaine into the United States, and money laundering conspiracy, U.S. Attorney David Gaouette and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Sweetin announced today.  Judge Blackburn also ordered the defendant to pay a $250,000 fine. 

The investigation into the Arriola drug trafficking organization, operated by Miguel Arriola and brother Oscar Arriola, led to the seizure of over 2300 kilograms of cocaine, and more than $10,000,000 in cash.  The case against Oscar Arriola is pending, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Miguel Arriola was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on December 16, 2003.  He was extradited from Mexico in January of 2007.  Miguel Arriola pled guilty on November 16, 2009.  He was sentenced on May 7, 2010. 

According to the stipulated facts contained in Miguel Arriola’s plea agreement, in January 2002, Arriola knowingly and intentionally joined and participated in a conspiracy to import cocaine from Mexico in multi-kilogram to hundred kilogram quantities, working in conjunction with his brother, Oscar Arriola, and others in the conspiracy to distribute cocaine in the United States, including but not limited to the locations of: Colorado Springs, Colorado, Denver, Colorado, El Paso, Texas, Chicago, Illinois, New York City, New York, Burlington, North Carolina, St. Louis, Missouri, and Atlanta, Georgia, as well as other cities.  Miguel Arriola was a manager of the criminal narcotics distribution and money laundering operation, with his brother, Oscar Arriola, as a higher ranking manager. 

In early 2002, DEA and local law enforcement initiated an investigation of a major cocaine trafficking organization operation in the Colorado Springs, Colorado area.  Agents had been receiving information that a large scale cocaine smuggling and distribution organization was centered at a ranch located in Peyton, Colorado.  Additional and independent information related to the narcotics trafficking activities that later became associated with the Arriola brothers was received on January 24, 2003, when 265 kilograms of cocaine was seized in Pennsylvania in a random assist rendered by the Pennsylvania State Patrol during a blizzard.  The investigation revealed that the driver of the truck picked up the cocaine from a large blue barn located in Peyton, Colorado.  That shipment was headed to New York. 
During the course of the investigation, a total of over 2,300 kilograms was seized, including, but not limited to, the 265 kilograms from Pennsylvania, 14 kilograms seized in Chicago on August 18, 2003, and 538 kilograms of cocaine seized in Chicago on September 15, 2003.  Amounts of cocaine arriving at the barn in Peyton, Colorado, from Mexico ranged from 25 kilograms to over 100 kilograms per shipment, which came either bi-monthly or monthly, depending on the supply and need. 

Agents and officers also seized money proceeds from the sale of cocaine.  A total of over $10,377,471 in cash was seized during the investigation.  Those seizures include but are not limited to the Feb. 3, 2003, seizure of $1,656,587.00 in New York; a May 25, 2003, seizure of $1,937,667.00 in Pueblo; a July 30, 2003 seizure of $692,543.00 in El Paso; an Oct. 20, 2003 seizure of $1,396,085, as well as a seizure of $830,000 between Nov. 9th through the 12th, 2003.  A vast majority of the proceeds were delivered to Miguel and Oscar Arriola, and the Arriola drug trafficking organization.  Money shipments were made to Mexico first hidden in heavy equipment transports.  Later co-conspirators began driving cars with proceeds stored in suitcases, with amounts transported reaching up to $2,500,000 per trip.

“DEA’s investigation of Miguel Arriola was a long-term, highly complex effort,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Sweetin.  “His sentence to federal prison is another example of our success in the fight against major Mexican drug cartels operating in the United States.” 

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), with substantial assistance from the Colorado Springs Police Department, the Pueblo Police Department, the Weld County Drug Task Force, and the Colorado State Patrol.

Miguel Arriola was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys M.J. Menendez and Susan “Zeke” Knox.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance in this matter.

This sentencing is part of the Department’s Southwest Border Strategy, announce in March 2009, which uses federal prosecutor-led task forces that bring together federal, state and local law enforcement components to identify, disrupt and dismantle the Mexican drug cartels through investigation, prosecution and extradition of their key leaders and facilitators, and seizure and forfeiture of assets.  Through continued joint cooperation at all levels of the Obama and Calderon administrations, the Department of Justice and its partners are actively working to stem the flow of illegal narcotics, weapons and bulk cash moving across the U.S./Mexico border.