DENVER — A yearlong heroin trafficking investigation by several agencies has led to multiple arrests, and the seizure of millions of dollars in drugs and more than $218,000 in “dirty” money, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
“The poison that is heroin is being pumped into the Denver metro area from south of the Mexican border,” 18th Judicial District District Attorney George Brauchler said at a news conference featuring federal, state and local law enforcement involved in the operation.
The agencies included the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Denver Police Department and the West Metro Drug Task Force.
And nowhere is that poison more apparent to the public than the Cherry Creek bike path.
FOX31 Problem Solvers showed the rampant and open use of heroin on the popular trail in June. Now, those addicted to the dangerous drug have one less source to get their fix.
“Twenty-five individuals have been indicted,” Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said.
RELATED: Operation Muchas Pacas indictment
RELATED: 16 of the suspects arrested
But thanks to an investigation called Operation Muchas Pacas or “many rodents” — named after the nickname of ringleader Jose DeJesus Bernal-Zamora –some of those drugs are no longer sickening or killing Coloradans.
“Law enforcement seized 47 pounds of heroin, valued at $2.2 million,” Coffman said.
They also found more than 1 pound of cocaine. This heroin destined for the Denver metro area was found coming from Sinaloa, Mexico, hidden in spare tires and other vehicle compartments, or sometimes shipped through FedEx.
Investigators said 25 people took part in either bringing it in from Mexico or selling it to customers in the state. Law enforcement officers also recovered 11 weapons — three assault rifles, a shotgun and seven handguns.
“We are really getting crushed in our region with heroin abuse and use. Five years ago, we were not a huge market for heroin. We are now,” DEA Special Agent Barbra Roach said.
And because of that problem, she said the work is far from over.
“I think this is significant. You hate to say it, but (the arrests are) a drop in the bucket. There are multiple cells operating in our area. If there is a demand there will be a supply,” Roach said.
Brauchler said the nation has to do better.
“We have a failure at our border to protect us from people who like to make money off the addiction and enslavement of the good people in Colorado,” he said.
That demand, the DEA said, is continuing to rise.
Roach also said the number of heroin overdoses in Colorado has increased 350 percent in the past five years.
Police are working to track down the remaining eight suspects of the 25 indicted. Most are believed to be out of the country.