More than 44 pounds of cocaine a week was delivered to the metro region by cars and trucks on Interstate 25, then sold by gang members in Denver, federal authorities said Monday.
Federal prosecutors announced the indictments of 35 people, including a Regis University assistant baseball coach and a retired Denver firefighter, alleging they were part of a network that imported and sold cocaine produced by the Sinaloa cartel in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
"Taking 20 kilograms of cocaine on a weekly basis off the street puts a substantial crimp in the flow of cocaine into Colorado," said John Walsh, the U.S. attorney for Colorado.
The drugs are the only direct link between Denver and the famously violent cartel, he said.
"This is not a case where we are alleging violent crimes," he said. "This is about drug trafficking."
Three of the 35 are in the United States illegally, and those accused of dealing the drugs are associated with the Tre Deuce Crips and the North Side Mafia, two homegrown criminal operations, Walsh said.
On Friday, 150 law enforcement officers from 20 agencies arrested 23 people in the metro region, five were taken into custody in other states and six remain at large. One already was in federal custody.
Those arrested represent a wide demographic, including men and women as young as 20-year-old Luis Aguero-Saenz and as old as 56-year-old David Cordova, a retired lieutenant in the Denver Fire Department.
Also arrested was Ronald Rocha, a 40-year-old assistant baseball coach at Regis University and a former board member of the Arvada Junior Baseball Corp.
A Regis spokesman said Rocha had been an unpaid volunteer with the team for about six years. Head coach Dan McDermott informed players Monday and sent an e-mail to their parents.
"Predictably, your sons were shocked and saddened that Ron might be involved in this type of activity," said a copy of the e-mail that was provided to The Denver Post. "The boys were also very strong and united in their feeling that they needed to stick together through this difficult time. You should be proud that they have not yet entered into the 'anger' stage in that most were very concerned about how sad this is for Ron."
Each of those arrested could face 10 years to life in prison and up to $4 million in fines, if convicted.
Neither Walsh nor other members of the task force that investigated the ring would discuss the evidence, other than to say the investigation began with Robert "Big Smoke" Thompson, 39.
Thompson was arrested in Lakewood on Friday on an indictment alleging intent to distribute crack cocaine.
The investigation netted 53 kilograms of cocaine, including 27 kilograms that were intercepted in two traffic stops in Pueblo. Authorities also confiscated 35 pounds of marijuana and $650,000 in cash, including $500,000 in one of the suspect's homes and $122,000 seized in a traffic stop in downtown Denver that was part of the investigation.
Nine firearms and 15 vehicles also were seized and will be subject to forfeiture to the government upon conviction.
Joey Bunch: 303-954-1174 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The following people were indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver for alleged roles in a cocaine-trafficking ring:
• Luis Aguero-Saenz, 20, arrested in El Paso
• Eulises Alvarado-Carrillo, 29, arrested in Lakewood
• Mario Armendariz, 23, arrested in Wellington
• Jose Luis Arroyo, 23, arrested in Denver
• Alonso Barrendey, 22, arrested in Denver
• Mary Bonilla, 51, fugitive
• Ruben Bustamante, 25, fugitive
• Karl Cdebaca, 30, arrested in Denver
• David Cordova, 56, arrested in Denver
• Agustin Cordova-Campos, 45, arrested in Englewood
• Jaime Cordova-Campos, 40, arrested in Aurora
• Austin Gilmore, 28, arrested in Wheat Ridge
• Ernesto Gonzalez, 29, fugitive
• Claudia Gutierrez, 26, arrested in Adams County
• Gustavo Macias-Cordova, 24, arrested in Arvada
• Christopher Madick, 26, arrested in Denver
• Andrew Martinez, 27, previously in federal custody
• Daniel Martinez, 33, arrested in Las Vegas
• Santiago Martinez-Lopez, 29, arrested in Denver
• Xallier Patterson, 36, arrested in Huntsville, Ala.
• Jose Andres Quezada-Hernandez, 44, fugitive
• Eduardo Rivas, 29, arrested in Arvada
• Jose Rivas, 25, arrested in Thornton
• Ronald Rocha, 40, arrested in Denver
• Sergio Rodriguez, 33, arrested in Denver
• Josefina Sandoval, 30, fugitive
• Alex Sisneros, 24, arrested in Thornton
• Hugo Sotelo-Morales, 32, fugitive
• Marvin Tabor, 37, arrested in Illinois
• Richard Talmich, 32, arrested in Denver
• Robert Thompson, 39, arrested in Lakewood
• Ivan Ulloa, 29, arrested in Lakewood
• Jose Urrutia-Torres, 37, arrested in El Paso
• Isaac Vigil, 26, arrested in Denver
• Brittany Williams, 21, arrested in Denver