DENVER -- Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced Wednesday the largest illegal marijuana trafficking ring bust since pot became legal in the state in 2014 that victimized two former Broncos players.
Coffman said 62 people and 12 businesses were indicted in the bust, dubbed Operation Toker Poker, which spanned five states.
Forty-three of the 62 people charged in the bust have been arrested, with the other 19 still on the run, Coffman said.
More than 20 law enforcement agencies across the state participated in the bust, including the Denver Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Coffman said the bust is a prime example of the marijuana black market that continues to flourish despite legalization.
Coffman said former Broncos players Erik Pears and Joel Dreessen were swindled out of money by the defendants. The two thought they were investing in a legal grow, Coffman said.
Many of the defendants knew each other from high school and played poker together before going into illegal marijuana trafficking, Coffman said.
The defendants are accused of operating a massive illegal interstate marijuana distribution and cultivation network that laundered millions of dollars.
The operation operated across the Front Range as well as in Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Ohio and Oklahoma.
The dismantling of the operation led to the seizure of 2,600 illegally cultivated marijuana plants and another 4,000 pounds of marijuana.
"We believe these seizures only scratch the surface of the illegal drugs produced by this organization over time," Coffman said.
The operation is estimated to have produced about 100 pounds of marijuana a month. It's estimated the going rate for a pound of marijuana on the black market is $2,000.
The defendants have been charged with 31 felony counts and those in custody are awaiting court dates in Denver District Court.
The charges include violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, illegal marijuana distribution, money laundering, tax evasion, mortgage fraud, theft, securities fraud and attempts to influence public officials.