CARBONDALE — When federal, regional and local authorities busted some 25 alleged drug dealers around the Western Slope last week, one of the top targets reportedly was a man living in Carbondale.
Aurelio Aguilar, 42, of Carbondale was arrested on April 25 “somewhere around the Mesa County line, heading for Las Vegas with $95,000 in cash to buy drugs,” alleged Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling on Thursday.
Schilling noted that the four-month investigation leading to this round of arrests grew out of an earlier investigation by the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team, known as the Grandberry investigation for the name of Evance Grandberry, whom police believe to be a leader of a Carbondale-based drug ring that allegedly was broken up last year by multiple arrests.
Schilling said leads developed by investigators looking into drug sales last year were the basis for a follow-up investigation of allegations of drug dealing in four western states and Mexico.
“He was one of the direct importers,” Schilling said, referring to Aguilar. Schilling explained that Aguilar is believed to be several rungs higher than Grandberry in the hierarchy of responsibility in the alleged drug ring.
Schilling said Aguilar had been living at 60 Clearwater Road, which is where police from Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Avon, in company with Garfield County Sheriff’s deputies and agents of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, went to find him at about 4 p.m. on April 25.
Schilling said a Carbondale officer had been stationed near the house starting at around 10 a.m. to watch for any suspicious activity, but had observed none.
As authorities closed in on the home in Carbondale, according to DEA spokesman Jim Schrant, a specially armored police vehicle on loan from the Town of Avon was used to shield agents and officers.
At approximately the same time, Schrant said, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office was using its Bear Cat armored vehicle to approach a house in Rifle.
In Carbondale, Schilling reported, agents and officers carrying rifles had surrounded the home, anticipating possible resistance.
But, Schilling said, “As far as I know, there was no one home.”
Inside the home, Schilling continued, officers found a cache of records, but no drugs and no money.
The April 25 roundup, according to the DEA and the Western Colorado Drug Task Force, netted 10 pounds of methamphetamine, nine pounds of cocaine, $144,300 in U.S. currency, nine firearms, and eight vehicles with a combined value of approximately $97,500, all of it seized by authorities.
A statement from the Western Colorado Drug Task Force said the four-month investigation uncovered connections from Mexico to California, Kansas, Nevada and western Colorado.
It is believed that two of the suspects would purchase, or arrange for the purchase of, shipments of coke and meth in Mexico, and its importation into the U.S.
According to Schrant, the investigation resulted in federal grand jury indictments issued for 36 individuals, of whom a total of 31 are now in custody.
Federal authorities continue to work on extradition of one suspect, Schrant said, adding that the remainder have “fugitated,” meaning they have fled from authorities and are now being tracked down.