Barbra Roach, special agent in charge at Denver’s U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, will focus on large drug-trafficking operations.
Barbra Roach, special agent in charge at Denver's U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, will focus on large drug-trafficking operations. (Special to The Denver Post)

Barbra Roach just arrived in Colorado a month ago, but as the head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Denver, she's already watched her agents participate in one of the largest drug busts in state history.

Roach is the new special agent in charge responsible for overseeing Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Montana. She replaced Jeff Sweetin, who was promoted to run the DEA's training center in Virginia.

Roach joined the DEA in 1987, and for a short while, she was the only female agent in Tampa, Fla., where she grew up.

"I never saw a glass ceiling," she said. "They were always nurturing to anyone who had potential."

Roach didn't initially plan on becoming a federal drug agent. She set her goals first on law school to study criminal law but changed her mind because she didn't desire to sit at a desk all day. "It's more fun to catch 'em than to cook 'em," she said.

Roach graduated with a bachelor's degree in social and behavioral science from the University of South Florida. She began her law enforcement career in the Tampa area, as a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy, before she joined the DEA.

For a decade, Roach worked on drug cases in Texas; Fresno, Calif.; and Philadelphia. She rose through the ranks from agent to group supervisor to assistant special agent in charge.


Advertisement

Her best case was "Operation Snow Boat" in Galveston, Texas, when she and other agents found 11 tons of cocaine coming into the port from a stash farm in Venezuela.

Before she came to Denver, Roach was working for the DEA in Maryland in charge of worldwide security for agents and the agency's information systems.

Right now, she is choosing a city for her husband and two children to live in where no marijuana dispensaries are allowed.

"By federal law, marijuana is illegal," she said. "There is no medical proof it has any benefit. People are not taking into account what can happen to those who are growing it. There are homes with mold and water damage in the hundreds of thousands, and there are children in there too."

Roach says the bottom line is marijuana is illegal despite state law that legalized it for medical use. But Roach concedes the DEA has limited resources and she says the division will focus on dismantling the "top echelon" of drug organizations.

"I want to see the cases we work are quality," she said. "I want to continue to strive for the large drug-trafficking organizations, not just domestically, but internationally."

Felisa Cardona: 303-954-1219 or fcardona@denverpost.com