Feds: Two held in 1-ton pot raid
Two men were indicted by a federal grand jury this week after approximately 1,860 pounds — or nearly a full ton — of harvested and drying marijuana was seized Friday by agents executing a search warrant at a property near Cedaredge, according to court records.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration alleges the same two suspects were responsible for two other illegal marijuana grows discovered near the Dolores River in September — among a wave of illicit cultivation operations that have turned up in Colorado over recent months.
Luis Adolfo Garcia, 33, 200 Colorado Ave., Apt. 2103, in Parachute, was indicted Tuesday on one count of conspiracy to manufacture with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, as well as one count of manufacturing and possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana.
Luis Rios-Cortes, 23, who had a Mexican identification card when contacted by authorities, was indicted on identical charges and faces a separate charge of being an alien illegally in the United States in possession of a firearm.
Rios-Cortes allegedly had a holstered .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol with hollow-point ammunition when approached by officers Friday at an alleged illegal marijuana grow off San Juan Vista Road near Cedaredge, according to a criminal complaint by DEA agent Jason Greenfield.
According to the complaint, the 1.5-acre parcel identified in court records as the “San Juan Vista Property” where Friday’s raid happened was purchased on May 15 in the name of Luis Garcia’s sister, Esther Garcia, for $125,000. She told the DEA her brother made a down payment of $20,000, which he gave to her in a cashier’s check for the transaction. Esther Garcia insisted she didn’t know what her brother was doing at the property, but he gave her money to help her family pay the bills.
While executing another search warrant on Friday at Esther Garcia’s apartment in Parachute, they found documents with the names of five men who were arrested Sept. 30 in connection with a large marijuana grow located at milepost 95 on Highway 141, near the Montrose-Mesa county line.
“Agents also recovered paperwork that indicated on 11/9/2015, $100 had been deposited into the inmate account of Angel Guzman-Gutierrez and $100 had been deposited into the inmate account of Eduardo Aries-Torres,” the complaint reads.
The men who got money from the Garcias are being held in the Mesa County Jail in connection with the Sept. 30 pot grow raid.
Friday’s raid near Cedaredge followed seven months of investigation, according to the DEA complaint.
On April 20, BLM rangers working along the Dolores River between Gateway and Naturita reported seeing a pair of suspicious trucks, including one with gardening supplies in the back. One truck, a Chevy Silverado, was registered to Esther Garcia in Parachute.
The second truck, a maroon-colored Ford series truck, was not associated with a valid license plate.
A BLM ranger “continued to see the vehicles throughout the summer, but was not able to report activity in a timely manner because the area does not have any cellular photo or radio coverage,” the complaint reads.
Luis Garcia allegedly had an open container of marijuana and alcohol when he was arrested April 21 and charged with impaired driving, behind the wheel of the Chevy Silverado observed by the BLM ranger.
Authorities, meanwhile, observed similarities in the two pot grow operations targeted near the Dolores River on Sept. 15 and Sept. 30 — both separated by four miles — which resulted in 10 arrests.
“The marijuana was grown and plotted in similar ways; 2) similar cisterns were used watering the plants and 3) both grows used the same type of irrigation piping to provide water for the marijuana plants,” the complaint said.
The grows were in the same area where the Chevy Silverado and the maroon Ford were observed by the BLM ranger, the complaint noted.
One arrestee from Sept. 30, Eduardo Aries-Torres, told the DEA he was hired, caught a train in Salt Lake City and was picked up at the Grand Junction train station by a man he didn’t know in a maroon Ford truck.
“Aries-Torres informed agents that he was hired to trim the marijuana down and help harvest the marijuana,” the complaint said.
Authorities conducting surveillance confirmed the Chevy Silverado, and a maroon Ford F-150, associated with Esther Garcia’s apartment.
The Ford truck was believed to be the same one observed by BLM employees and suspected to be a “re-supply vehicle for the marijuana grow operations … located on federal land,” the complaint reads.
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