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.