Colorado-based international cocaine trafficking ring busted, authorities say

DENVER — Local and federal authorities dismantled an international cocaine trafficking ring lead by two Colorado residents, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday.

Credit: DEA via Colorado Attorney General’s Office

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman said authorities’ investigative operation, dubbed “White Whale,” was done in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the West Metro Drug Task Force.

“This case is the result of a collaborative effort at all levels of law enforcement across the country and internationally,” said Attorney General Coffman through a news release Wednesday.

“I am grateful to all our partners for their hard work. My office remains committed to protecting public safety and fighting against anyone who tries to bring poison into our communities and sell it to our citizens.”

Operation White Whale began in April 2017. The investigation was led by the Denver DEA office’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force in partnership with the West Metro Drug Task Force.

Sixteen people have been charged with participating in the drug ring, which brought cocaine into the U.S. from Mexico. It was distributed through a network in Atlanta.

Authorities said they seized 134 kilograms (295 lbs.) of cocaine and $1.2 million in cash. The AG’s office estimated the cocaine to be worth $5.3 million.

Credit: DEA via Colorado Attorney General’s Office.

According to the indictment, the ring was led by Jesus Arevalo-Arviso and Julian Anchondo-Galaviz, who lived in Greeley. They allegedly coordinated with an associate in Atlanta to distribute the cocaine and launder the money associated with its sales.

The attorney general’s office said court-authorized wiretaps allowed investigators to discover the ring was being operated from one of the men’s Greeley home.

“At times, the group utilized semi-trailer trucks from a Colorado-based trucking company to transport the cocaine throughout the southern U.S.,” the press release said.

The alleged traffickers concealed currency in load vehicles and used wire remittances to transfer money back to cocaine suppliers in Mexico, according to the attorney general’s office. Chinese nationals also helped launder the money through Chinese banks.

A Colorado State Grand Jury indicted the 16 defendants with nine total counts on Aug. 13. Charges include violations of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, conspiracy to distribute cocaine and money laundering.

On Aug. 15, authorities executed a number of search warrants across the South, Midwest and Mountain West regions, resulting in the arrest of eight of the people allegedly associated with the trafficking network.

Credit: DEA via Colorado Attorney General’s Office

“Cocaine use is making a comeback across the nation,” said William T. McDermott, the special agent in charge of the DEA Denver Field Division. “This investigation is an excellent example of what can be accomplished when DEA offices across the nation, agents stationed abroad, and our state and local counterparts, work together to dismantle a substantial cocaine supply network.”

A large number of other agencies participated in the investigation, including DEA offices in Charleston, South Carolina; Boise, Idaho; Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; Beijing; St. Louis; and Atlanta.

The Department of Homeland Security, the IRS, the FBI, the ATF and the U.S. Marshals Service were involved as well. Chinese agencies also assisted American authorities.

Other local authorities who helped in the case include the Denver and Aurora police departments, Colorado State Patrol and the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force.

The criminal charges will be prosecuted by the attorney general’s office alongside the 19th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Weld County.

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