Authorities bust major meth ring |

Authorities bust major meth ring

garfield county correspondent

Law enforcement authorities say they have broken up a major methamphetamine trafficking ring operating between the Roaring Fork Valley and Mesa County.

Four Roaring Fork Valley men were arrested on drug distribution charges in the investigation. Authorities said in a news release that the distribution network sold meth in quantities ranging from ounces, priced at $800, to pounds, at $12,500.

Authorities also arrested two others on drug-related charges in connection with the investigation, and six others on immigration-related violations.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, along with Martin Beeson and Pete Hautzinger, the respective district attorneys in Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction, announced the arrests in a news release Wednesday evening. The investigation was conducted by the DEA’s Western Colorado Drug Task Force (WCDTF) and the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team, or TRIDENT.

TRIDENT is composed of members of the Garfield and Eagle County sheriff’s offices, and police in Glenwood Springs, Rifle, Carbondale and Vail. The WCDTF is composed of DEA, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and Grand Junction police.

Their investigation began last July and included use of undercover officers, confidential sources and surveillance. Authorities say the ring transported high-quality, multi-pound quantities of meth from the Roaring Fork Valley to Mesa County via Interstate 70.

Investigators seized about 4 pounds of meth in the case, and it had an average purity level of 76 percent. Five ounces of cocaine and a small amount of crack cocaine also were seized.

Juan Carlos Gil, 29; Gerardo Salcedo Gil, 24; Jose Luis Perez-Preciado, 27; and Jose Manuel Oropeza-Padilla, 31, were arrested and face drug charges in Mesa County. Perez-Preciado lives in El Jebel, and the other three in Glenwood Springs.

Juan Carlos Gil, Gerardo Salcedo Gil and Perez-Preciado face felony charges of distribution of a controlled substance, conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and special offender. If convicted, they face prison sentences of between eight and 48 years.

Manuel Oropeza-Padilla has been charged with distribution of a controlled substance, more than a pound, but less than a kilogram, and child abuse. Conviction on those charges could result in a prison sentence of between 10 and 32 years.

“Those arrested today are organized criminals who were profiting from dealing dangerous drugs to citizens of our communities on the Western Slope,” Jeffrey Sweetin, special agent in charge of the Denver Division of the DEA, said Wednesday in a prepared statement.

Garfield Sheriff Lou Vallario, TRIDENT’s chairman, said in a statement, “We are pleased that this drug trafficking organization has been removed from our community. Our citizens should feel confident in the fact that this case could not have been the success that it was if it were not for the excellent working relationship between TRIDENT, the WCDTF and the DEA.”

Searches conducted on Wednesday resulted in two additional drug-related arrests. Cristobel Topete-Amaral, 20, of Glenwood Springs was arrested for possession of a controlled substance (cocaine), possession with the intent to distribute (cocaine) and child abuse. The distribution charge is punishable by 4-16 years in prison upon conviction.

Prudencio Martinez-Lopez, 24, of Basalt was arrested for possession of crack cocaine, approximately 5 grams, and faces a prison sentence of two to four years if convicted.

During the drug arrests and searches, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested Joaquin Garcia-Martinez, Pascual Lopez-Lopez, Rigoberto Nuno, Elisonog Herrera Gonzalez Pedro-Elias, Jesus Sanchez-Tovar and Alonzo Valles-Rios for illegal entry into the United States. All are Glenwood Springs residents, and authorities didn’t have their ages available Wednesday. Illegal entry is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119

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