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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Colorado

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 24, 2019

Forty-two Individuals Arrested In One Of The Largest Black Market Marijuana Takedowns In Colorado History

Joint investigation by DEA, 18th and 17th Judicial Districts identified approximately 240 residential grow locations

DENVER – Forty-two people were arrested over the last three days in one of the largest black market marijuana enforcement actions in Colorado history, announced U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn, DEA Denver Division Special Agent in Charge William T. McDermott, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler and 17th Judicial District Attorney Dave Young.  During the last two years more than 250 locations have been searched. 

This week law enforcement conducted additional searches and began making arrests on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.  Of those arrested as of Friday morning, 26 were state defendants and 16 were federal defendants.  The federal defendants charged with offenses involving 100 or more marijuana plants face a minimum mandatory sentence of five years imprisonment and a maximum of 40 years imprisonment.  The federal defendants charged with offenses involving 1,000 or more marijuana plants face a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum of life in prison.

The law enforcement action identified marijuana grows in homes across the Metro Denver area.  Eight businesses were also searched.  The total number of search warrants executed, by county, include the following:

  • 120 were in Adams County
  • 63 were in Arapahoe County
  • 22 were in Weld County
  • 17 were in Jefferson County
  • 7 were in Denver County
  • 22 were in Douglas County
  • 3 were in El Paso County
  • 1 was in Broomfield County

From the locations searched, over 80,000 marijuana plants and 4,500 pounds of finished marijuana product were seized. 

In addition to the criminal prosecutions there are federal asset forfeiture actions pending, including:

  • 41 homes
  • $2,160,776.89 in U.S. currency
  • 25 vehicles
  • 3 jewelry items

Marijuana is a Schedule I narcotic and illegal under federal law.  The marijuana subject to this law enforcement action was destined for the black market, which has dramatically increased in Colorado in recent years. 

This investigation began in the summer of 2016, when investigators from the North Metro Task Force began investigating a network of marijuana cultivators involved in the distribution of large amounts of marijuana.  The grows were found in the basements of newer houses in fairly upscale neighborhoods.  The grow areas are generally in sealed basement rooms.  Large commercial charcoal air filters are often used to remove marijuana odor.  Some growers vent air late at night to prevent investigators and neighbors from detecting the odor. 

Five percent of the grow locations involved the bypass of the electrical meter, which greatly decreases the amount of electricity for which a marijuana grow home is billed, making it more difficult for law enforcement to identify the grow homes by reviewing electrical use data, but increasing the public safety risk. 

“Colorado has become the epicenter of black market marijuana in the United States,” said United States Attorney Jason Dunn.  “It’s impacting communities, it’s impacting neighborhoods, and it’s impacting public safety.  But this investigation may be just the tip of the iceberg.  We will therefore continue to pursue black market growers and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.”

“Unfortunately Colorado is no longer known for its beautiful mountains and scenery,” said DEA Denver Division Special Agent in Charge William T. McDermott.  “Now it is known for marijuana and other illegal manufacturing and distribution of controlled substances.  This investigation highlights that law enforcement and prosecutors are committed to the rule of law and ensuring Colorado returns to its former standing.”

This case was investigated by the North Metro Task Force, the DEA, the 18th Judicial District Attorney and the 17th Judicial District Attorney, with support from the following law enforcement agencies: U.S. Marshals Service, FBI, HSI, ATF, IRS, West Metro Drug Task Force, Front Range Task Force, Thornton Police Department, Westminster Police Department, Adams County Sheriff, Broomfield Police Department, Commerce City Police Department, Northglenn Police Department, Brighton Police Department, Federal Heights Police Department, Aurora Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff, Arapahoe County Sheriff, Arvada Police Department, Wheat Ridge Police Department, Golden Police Department, Lakewood Police Department, Denver Police Department, Weld County Sheriff, Firestone Police Department, Frederick Police Department, Parker Police Department, Castle Rock Police Department, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Douglas County Sheriff, Mountain View Police Department, Englewood Police Department, Colorado Attorney General’s Office, Colorado State Patrol, Colorado Springs Police Department, Fort Collins Police Department, National Guard, Pueblo Police Department, El Paso County Sheriff, Pueblo County Sheriff, Teller County Sheriff, Longmont Police Department, and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).

Federal defendants are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron Teitelbaum and Barbara Skalla.  The related forfeiture matters are being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Elizabeth Young and Tonya Andrews.

The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Federal Criminal Case Nos:  19-cr-130, 19-cr-0177, 19-cr-0195, 19-cr-119, 19-cr-0113, 19-cr-0112, 19-cr-083

Federal Forfeiture Case Nos:  18-cv-00121, 18-cv-01880, 18-cv-01344, 18-cv-02064,18-cv-02734, 19-cv-00257

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Jeff Dorschner Spokesman, Public Affairs Officer U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado 303-454-0243 direct; 303-454-0400 fax
Updated May 24, 2019