Denver OCEDETF Strike Force Takes Down Mexican Drug Trafficking Organization Responsible for Distributing Large Quantities of Cocaine and Methamphetamine
The DEA-led Denver OCDETF Strike Force, including the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office, DEA and the Aurora Police Department, today arrested multiple defendants throughout Colorado and California on various drug related charges, the Justice Department announced. The arrests were the result of a one year investigation into the inner workings of a Mexican led drug trafficking organization that brought drugs into the country through California to Colorado. A federal grand jury in Denver earlier returned an indictment charging 17 defendants for illegal drug trafficking conduct. The indictment contains 45 counts, including an asset forfeiture allegation.
As a result of today’s operation, nine were arrested, with one additional defendant already in custody. Seven are considered fugitives.
The defendants allegedly brought cocaine and methamphetamine into the country from Mexico, transported it through California, into Colorado in vehicles with secret compartments. The drugs were held at three stash locations in Aurora, Colorado, and then brought to the El Rancho Market at 15401 East Mississippi in Aurora to be parceled out and distributed. The El Rancho Market, in addition to sundries food and miscellaneous products, also has a money transfer station, which is how some drug proceeds were distributed from Colorado back to Mexico. Other methods of moving money included smuggling bulk cash in vehicle secret compartments.
The lead defendant, Jose Tapia-Rubio, a/k/a “Don Chequetas”, age 58, a resident of Aurora but from Mexico, has been charged with operating a Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE), also known as a “Drug King Pin”. To be charged with CCE, the defendant has to be in a leadership position while being involved with a five or more individuals responsible for a series of drug crimes, and that the drug trafficking continues resulting in substantial income and resources. If convicted on this charge Tapia-Rubio faces not less than 20 years and up to life in federal prison, as well as a $2 million fine.
According to the indictment, between Feb. 1, 2016 through April 15, Tapia-Rubio and the additional 16 defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, 50 grams or more of actual methamphetamine, and 500 grams or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine. For this count alone, each defendant faces not less than 10 years, and up to life in prison, as well as a $10 million fine. Each defendant also faces a variety of other drug related charges with different prison penalties.
As part of this investigation and takedown, the government is seeking a $2 million money judgment as well as the seizure of two Aurora properties used as stash houses, one located at 12091 East Arizona Avenue, and the other located at 17994 East Utah Place, both in Aurora.
“We are committed to dismantling and removing the threat posed by these criminal organizations flooding American communities with dangerous narcotics,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “This organization is alleged to have moved large amounts of meth and cocaine from Mexico to Colorado, with devastating impact on communities in their wake. I want to congratulate the outstanding federal, state, and local law enforcement cooperation that resulted in this highly successful operation. Replicating this kind of aggressive law enforcement take down is critical to breaking the backs of these criminal organizations.”
“The stupidest thing a drug trafficker can do is bring his dope business to Colorado,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer. “We have the most sophisticated investigators, prosecutors, and partnerships you will find anywhere, and we don't tolerate the poisoning of our people.”
“This criminal organization distributed cocaine and methamphetamine throughout our communities, making themselves rich from the suffering of others,” stated Special Agent in Charge Barbra Roach of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Denver Field Division. “DEA takes great pride in identifying and targeting these predatory organizations and works continually to put them out of business, and to put their leaders in jail.”
“This operation was successful due to our positive and established working relationships with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners,” said Aurora Chief of Police Ken Metz. “This collaborative effort will help Aurora become even safer. Thank you to all the officers involved.”
This case was investigated by the Denver Strike Force, which includes the following agencies: DEA, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigation, the FBI, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, U.S. Marshal Service, West Metro Drug Task Force, Northern Colorado Drug Task Force, Colorado Attorney General’s Office, Colorado State Patrol and the Denver Police Department.
The defendants are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Podolak. The asset forfeiture is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tonya Andrews.
The charges contained in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
LIST OF DEFENDANTS IN STRIKE FORCE INDICTMENT
- JOSE TAPIA-RUBIO, a.k.a. “Don Chaquetas,” age 58, resident of Aurora, Colorado, from Mexico (naturalized U.S. citizen) ARRESTED TODAY IN AURORA
- JUAN CARLOS MEDINA-SOBERANIS, age 31, resident of Aurora, Colorado, from Califorinia FUGITIVE
- LARA ZAMORA-CRUZ, a.k.a. “Maria Lara-Reyes,” age 63, resident of Northridge, California, from El Salvador (naturalized U.S. citizen) ARRESTED TODAY IN CALIFORNIA
- ERIK PARRA, a.k.a. “Flaco,” age unknown, resident of Metro Denver, Colorado, from California FUGITIVE
- JOSE CHICA-ORELLANA, a.k.a. “Adrian,” age unknown, resident of Aspen, Colorado, from El Salvador IN CUSTODY PRIOR TO TODAY
- SELESTINO HERNANDEZ-MAYO, a.k.a. “Chakichan,” age 45, resident of Aurora, Colorado, from Mexico ARRESTED TODAY IN AURORA
- CLAUDIA LISSETH-LARA, age 41, resident of Granada Hills, California, from El Salvador (naturalized U.S. citizen) ARRESTED TODAY IN CALIFORNIA
- VILMA L. ZAMORA, age 67, resident of Reseda, California, from El Salvador ARRESTED TODAY IN CALIFORNIA
- FREDY PAZ-HERRERA, a.k.a. “Avispero,” age unknown, resident of Breckenridge, California, from Mexico FUGTIVE
- FIRST NAME UNKNOWN, LAST NAME UNKNOWN, a.k.a. “Bancholas,” age unknown, in Mexico FUGITIVE
- RODRIGO MORA-SANCHEZ, a.k.a. “Pelon,” age 49, resident of Aurora, Colorado, from Mexico (naturalized U.S. citizen) ARRESTED TODAY IN AURORA
- OSCAR MORA-CAMPOS, age unknown, resident of Aspen, from Mexico ARRESTED TODAY IN ASPEN
- EDUARDO JIMENEZ-SANCHEZ, age 37, resident of New Castle, Colorado, from Mexico ARRESTED TODAY IN BRECKENRIDGE
- FIRST NAME UNKNOWN, LAST NAME UNKNOWN, a.k.a. “Changuito,” age unknown, in Mexico FUGITIVE
- FIRST NAME UNKNOWN, LAST NAME UNKNOWN, a.k.a. “UM-9584,” age unknown, in Mexico FUGITIVE
- LEOPOLDO RODRIGUEZ-PADILLA, age unknown, resident of California, from Mexico FUGITIVE
- HEBERTO MORA-SANCHEZ, a.k.a. “Chaparro,” age 43, resident of Aurora, Colorado, from Mexico ARRESTED TODAY IN AURORA