A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent shows some of the 187 plus pounds of methamphetamine that was seized along with some 41 kilos of cocaine at a house in Gwinnett County on Aug. 16, during a DEA news conference in Atlanta, Monday, Aug. 21, 2006. Four defendants were also arrested and agents recovered a money counter, digital scales, and a large sum of suspected drug proceeds. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)
Federal authorities in Colorado have announced the arrest of 20 people linked to a gang of drug traffickers that operated out of Denver and used truck drivers to move methamphetamine and money within the United States.
They said Thursday this gang used drivers from a trucking company - and in one case a minor - to transport money and drugs between California and Colorado.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado said in a statement that it cooperated with its counterparts in Utah, Iowa and California to arrest 20 suspects in those four states, 17 of whom have Hispanic surnames and all of whom were indicted last week by a federal grand jury in Denver.
It said two other people implicated in the same methamphetamine trafficking and international money laundering case are considered fugitives from justice.
Most of the 20 suspects arrested Wednesday have already made an initial appearance in a federal court in Denver, the statement said.
It noted that a federal grand jury in Denver last week "returned two separate indictments charging a total of 22 defendants with crimes related to the trafficking of methamphetamine and international money laundering."
The first indictment "involves 11 defendants and 135 counts. The second indictment involves 11 additional defendants and 22 counts."
During the course of the investigation, authorities have seized more than six pounds of methamphetamine, more than $715,000 in cash, a firearm and two vehicles, the statement said.
The year-and-a-half-long probe by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, or OCDETF, targeted the drug-trafficking organization led by Armando Mendoza Haro, resident of the Denver suburb of Northglenn.
That gang allegedly has ties to Mexico and hired "corrupt drivers" from a trucking company to move methamphetamine from California to Colorado.
In one instance, "a minor had cash strapped to his body as he was being driven to California," the U.S. Attorney General's Office for the District of Colorado said.
The gang kept legitimate bank accounts at several financial institutions, but made deposits of less than $10,000 at a time to skirt bank reporting requirements.
It also made domestic and international wire transfers "to further conceal the ownership and source of the methamphetamine proceeds," the statement said.
"Thanks to the outstanding efforts of the OCDETF Strike Force, 22 drug dealers have been charged with trafficking methamphetamine, most of which was delivered to Metro Denver," U.S. Attorney John Walsh said.