Last updated 1:03AM ET
December 14, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Durango Drug Cartel Busted Up
(2007-12-18)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: Police say they've dismantled a major drug operation based in Durango.
The group operated throughout the Four Corners and has ties to Mexico.
KSUT's Victor Locke reports:

SWEETIN: THIS IS A VIOLENT, WELL ORGANIZED, HIGHLY FUNDED, VERY TECHNICAL ORGANIZATION THAT'S NO LONGER OUT THERE.
DEA Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Sweetin says the drug cartel operating in Durango thought it could come here and operate freely in LaPlata County and the Four Corners.
The ring has now been broken up, through two years of effort by the Southwest Drug Task Force, comprised of LaPlata County Sheriff's and Ignacio officers along with two DEA agents assigned here two years ago, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
The investigation was dubbed "Operation Escorpian" after the cartel's mascot, the scorpian.
LaPlata Sheriff's Spokesman Dan Bender says 35 separate investigations targeting the group led to the arrests of 23 people over the last two years for selling drugs from suppliers in Mexico down to street level dealers and users.
BENDER: THE INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED IN THIS WERE NOT KIDS SELLING TO KIDS. OF THE 23 PEOPLE ARRESTED, TEN ARE BETWEEN THE AGES OF 30 AND 44 YEARS OF AGE.
12 of those arrested were from LaPlata County, 2 from adjoining counties and 9 from Mexico.
BENDER: THERE WERE THREE TOWNS ACTUALLY IN MEXICO WHERE THE LEADERSHIP HAD TIES TO. ONE WAS SENALOA, NAYARIT AND DURANGO MEXICO.
During the investigation, police confiscated 9 pounds of methamphetamine with a street value of 320-thousand dollars, as well as small amounts of cocaine and marihuana, and 94-thousand dollars in cash.
DEA Special Agent Jeffrey Sweetin says the investigation confirmed there is organized drug trafficking in the Four Corners, and what was broken up was a fairly common drug trafficking organization.
SWEETIN: THIS GROUP WANTED TO BE AFFILIATED WITH THE MEXICAN MAFIA. THEY WANTED TO BE, THEY WANTED TO BE KNOWN AS MEXICAN MAFIA OPERATORS, SO PEOPLE WOULD BE AFRAID OF THEM.
Sweetin says this case could be connected to others.
SWEETIN: THERE ARE OTHER CASES LIKE THIS GOING ON ALL THE TIME DOWN HERE, WE JUST DON'T TELL YOU ABOUT THEM. THE NATURE OF OUR BUSINESS IS THAT WE TAKE THESE CASES AND CONTINUE WITH THEM FOR YEARS, SO A LOT OF TIMES WHAT WE DO IS WE TAKE DOWN CASES AND WE KEEP GOING.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Candelaria agreed with Sweetin.
CANDELARIA: SOMEWHERE AN ORGANIZATION IN MEXICO DECIDED THAT DURANGO COLORADO IS GOING TO BE THE BEST PLACE WHERE THEY CAN FLY UNDER THE RADAR AND THEY SEND OUT THEIR SOLDIERS BASICALLY TO COME HERE AND SET SHOP UP. IF ONE ORGANIZATION CAN DO IT I GUARANTEE THERE ARE OTHER ORGANIZATIONS IN MEXICO LOOKING TO DO THE SAME THING. SO, BY NO MEANS, BY TAKING THIS ONE PARTICULAR ONE DOWN, IS IT GOING TO KEEP US IMMUNE FROM THIS EVER HAPPENING AGAIN, IN FACT THERE'S OTHER ONGOING INVESTIGATIONS AS WE SPEAK.
Those arrested all face felonies.
Some have already been convicted or pleaded guilty, others are awaiting trial.
Four other suspects have been identified but not yet arrested.
The Four Corners has been classified as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which frees up federal funding for the drug task force. Th
Police, including Sheriff Duke Shirard, say they want those living here to know they aren't immune from organized crime and its impact.
SHIRARD: I BELIEVE FERVENTLY, THAT A GOOD SIXTY, TO SIXTY FIVE PERCENT OF THE CRIMES WE INVESTIGATE IN THIS COUNTY ARE DUE TO THE EXISTENCE AND USE OF DRUGS.
From KSUT, Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.
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