Authorities raid 8 metro-area locations suspected of illegal grow houses, luxury auto thefts

DENVER -- A large task force recovered 17 stolen vehicles related to a criminal operation involving illegal marijuana grow operations Wednesday, according to the Metropolitan Auto Theft Task Force.

On Wednesday morning, investigators from the task force and DEA agents executed eight search warrants on the suspected grow houses and locations where stolen vehicles were found across metro Denver. FOX31 and Channel 2 confirmed that authorities responded to locations in Aurora, Thornton, Federal Heights and unincorporated Adams County.

The search warrants followed a six-month investigation during which investigators identified an "organized criminal enterprise and multiple illegal grow operations in the metropolitan area," according to a statement released Wednesday.

"During the investigation, the identified individuals were found to be operating a scheme that involved stolen VIN-switched high-end and luxury vehicles as well as illegal marijuana cultivation and distribution out-of-state," the task force's press release states.

In addition to Colorado, states involved in the investigation include Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Arizona, Maine and California.

The value of the 17 recovered vehicles is estimated at $1.2 million, putting their average value at about $70,600.

“Criminal organizations use the marijuana industry in Colorado to operate in not only black-market marijuana cultivation and distribution, but also many other criminal related activities,” said Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Denver Field Division William McDermott. “This case is another example that demonstrates the great working relationship that the DEA has with state and local law enforcement throughout the Denver metro area.”

The task force includes detectives from many local and state agencies. It is grant-funded by the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority executive board.

The 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office will be prosecuting the case.

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