GRAND JUNCTION - A group of 31 people arrested since mid-February are alleged members of Western Colorado's largest meth distribution ring - a "sophisticated" network of dealers, drug runners and enforcers with links to some of the Grand Valley's recent violent crimes.Officials promised Thursday they're all out of business."This has an incredible impact not only locally, but throughout the region, Phoenix and Colorado Springs," said Tom Gorman, head of the Grand Junction-based Western Colorado task force of the Drug Enforcement Administration.Gorman was among numerous local, state and federal authorities at a press conference Thursday announcing the arrest of 31 people - most of them local - as part of "Operation Zamboni."It started in January after information was received claiming that the group is responsible for roughly 75 percent of the area's imported meth supply - trafficking 5 to 20 pounds of the drug per month in the Grand Valley, Gorman said.The investigation's three months old and ongoing.Authorities allege that 44-year-old Stephen Parsons is the head of the group locally - he was arrested Wednesday on warrants totaling $600,000. He'll be formally charged next Tuesday - three days after his birthday.Parsons' arrest warrants in two cases have been sealed by Judge Brian Flynn.
He's being held on possession of meth and marijuana with intent to distribute each drug.Meth allegedly flowed to Parsons from two suppliers.One of them, 39-year-old Thomas O'Hara, was arrested in Colorado Springs Thursday morning.Lt. Clif Northam, with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, said Colorado Springs Police arrested O'Hara at his home around 9 a.m. Thursday, on a Mesa County warrant worth $350,000.It wasn't clear when O'Hara will appear in local courts.Parsons' other alleged supplier wasn't named Thursday and remains the focus of the ongoing investigation. That individual lives in Arizona. Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubenstein said the investigation continues to be assisted by the Phoenix Police Department.'The organization'
"This was a very sophisticated organization and what they did was make money," Gorman said.Authorities allege Parsons had eight "lieutenants" working directly under him while the remaining people filled various roles: Drug couriers, enforcers, load drivers, "pretend" load drivers aimed at distracting law enforcement and others.It was a "polycrime" organization - the drug trade involved "attempted homicides, intimidation of witnesses," among other related crimes, Gorman said.The arrests started mid-February.Gorman said the group has links to accused attempted murderer Sam Lincoln, the 24-year-old man charged with shooting at Mesa County Sheriff's deputies on Dec. 1, as well as the Nov. 23 shooting of a man in the desert north of Grand Junction.Ashley King - the 23-year-old woman accused of driving a Kia that Lincoln was riding in during an alleged Dec. 1 rolling shoot-out with deputies - faces fresh charges as an alleged member of Parsons' organization."We believe Lincoln was in possession of guns and dynamite that came from this group," Gorman said.
Denting the supply?Fifteen local, state and federal entities are playing a role in the ongoing operation."In 20 years, I've never seen the kind of collaboration that's gone into this effort," Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said.That effort, Gorman said, has been the exclusive focus of DEA's regional operations for the past three months. They're not alone."This has cost us a lot of resources, overtime ... our costs have been very high," Rubenstein said.Drug networks, he said, are dismantled and others fill demand."We want to dent the supply for a while as things like meth treatment get into place," Rubenstein said.