Massive, statewide drug ring busted by authorities; 16 people indicted

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DENVER -- A monthslong investigation shut down a massive drug ring that investigators said shipped illegally grown marijuana out of Colorado that was then sold on the streets of cities around the country.

Authorities said the operation produced more than 300 pounds of marijuana each month, and they believe it began in March 2014.

“This should be an eye-opener to the state of Colorado about what the true state of our situation is involving drug cultivation and distribution,” 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler said.

Brauchler spoke at a news conference after a joint operation that included 14 agencies both local and national, saying it put an end to the illegal marijuana operation.

Sixteen people were indicted by a grand jury. Charges include organized crime, money laundering and conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

“These transactions were taking place not under the cover of darkness. There were hundreds of pounds of marijuana being exchanged in the parking lots of a school in Aurora and the parking lot of a Starbucks in Castle Pines,” Brauchler said.

Nineteen locations in Denver, Douglas, Arapahoe, El Paso and Elbert counties were raided on Thursday morning as part of the investigation.

Two-hundred members of law enforcement executed the warrants that were a product of a long, tedious investigation that began in 2016 when 2,500 pounds of marijuana were seized in a large grow operation in Elbert County. It had a street value in excess of $5 million.

Authorities also recovered 39 weapons, including rifles and shotguns, and investigated 22 accounts at seven banks.

“We’re experiencing these same issues in all of our communities,” said John Jackson with the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police. "Home grows that are next to your house. These are situations that are happening in plain sight every day.”

Authorities are not holding back, and hoping to send a message.

“If there are folks out there trying to launch a similar operation, be aware that we’re not going home and forgetting about this,” Brauchler said. “The 200 officers and agents who worked this thing, they are out there working the next one too. We are going to get compliance with the law or people will be held accountable.”