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Heroin seized as part of the investigation. (Handout)

Colorado’s attorney general Friday announced grand jury indictments against 64 members of an alleged “international drug trafficking network” based in Colorado that authorities say moved millions of dollars worth of drugs into and around the state.

A total of 159 charges were filed, including counts of racketeering and conspiracy under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act. The trafficking ring allegedly brought in multiple types of drugs from Mexico, stashing them in concealed compartments created in their vehicles. 

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a virtual news conference Friday that drug users are often the ones who end up in jail or prison, but this time, the entire distribution network is implicated.

Pills seized as part of the investigation. (Handout)

“This was a criminal enterprise,” Weiser said. His office collaborated with the Denver division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as the Arvada Police Department and the 17th Judicial District, as part of the investigation.

Following a tip in March 2019, officials pursued 30 search warrants and 77 wire taps, resulting in the confiscation of 77,000 counterfeit Oxycontin pills, 250 pounds of methamphetamine, 60 pounds of heroin, 8 kilograms of cocaine and $931,000 in U.S. currency. 

MORE: Fentanyl overdoses are surging in Colorado as the powerful opioid is disguised as other drugs

The pills on their own — 26% of which contained lethal doses of the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl — were worth roughly $2 million, according to Deanna Reuter, the special agent in charge of the DEA’s Denver field division. 

Nationwide, almost 50,000 people died from an opioid overdose in 2019. More than 6,600 Coloradans have died from an opioid-related overdose since 2000; fentanyl overdose alone caused 452 deaths in 2020. 

“This investigation does not stand alone. This is happening all throughout the United States, this is just one example of what the cartels are doing,” Reuter said, adding, “We took the entire organization.” 

The grand jury process began in October 2019, culminating in Friday’s indictment in Denver district court. The case will be housed at the 17th Judicial District in Adams County.

Separately, Colorado will receive roughly $10 million as part of a settlement announced last week with global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which was accused of advising pharmaceutical companies on how to “supercharge” opioid sales. The funds will go toward addressing the crisis across the state, including for programs to help with drug education, treatment and recovery.

“Getting drugs off the streets is something that we all agree on,” 17th Judicial District Attorney Brian Mason said. “And when we can do it like this, it makes our community safer.”

Lucy Haggard was a TRENDS Reporting Fellow from August 2020 to May 2021 with The Colorado Sun.

Email: Twitter: @lucy_haggard