Apr 18, 2014 7:03 PM by Tony Spehar
PUEBLO - A major international drug trafficking ring operating out of Pueblo has been broken up after a 13-month investigation by local and federal authorities.
Juan Carlos Rayos-Franco, Clint Nielsen, Henry Loya, Sheriee Torres-Maes, Patricia Maes, Jonathan Caudill and Antonio Caro are accused of running the ring that is estimated to have brought 400-pounds of meth worth $18-million to Southern Colorado. The investigation into their alleged drug trafficking ring culminated last Saturday with arrests and raids.
"This is an organization that has a past of violence," explained Agent Matthew Barden of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). "They have a past of having regular contact with law enforcement."
Over the course of the investigation authorities seized 66-pounds of meth and 189-grams of heroin through traffic stops and finally during the execution of search warrants on Saturday.
Barden said the ring dealt in meth made by cartels in Mexico and shipped to Pueblo through California and New Mexico, one ring member was arrested in San Francisco and another in Albuquerque. They either drove it to the area or shipped it through the mail in corn starch containers which were detected by the Postal Service. The meth was up to 95-percent pure, which means after being cut by other ingredients it could've translated to thousands upon thousands of doses.
"Probably enough for everybody in Pueblo County to get stoned probably eight or ten times I'd be willing to bet you," Barden said. "It's a staggering amount of methamphetamine."
Authorities also seized hundreds of thousands in cash and 16 vehicles involved in the ring. Additionally they seized 13 guns including four assault rifles. Seven of the guns were stolen. Given the recent rash of violence in Pueblo, Police Chief Luis Velez said the seizure of the guns was also very important.
"Taking 13 guns off of the streets of Pueblo certainly at this time is something truly, truly valuable," Chief Velez explained.
The bust was carried out by a task force involving the DEA, the Postal Service, the Pueblo Police Department and the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office as well as other members of the Southern Colorado Drug Task Force. While officials said the bust would be a blow to drug trafficking in Southern Colorado, it is likely another ring will pop up.
"These are the levels of drugs that are being brought into the City of Pueblo and in this region," described Chief Velez. "We have to continue this fight."
All seven members of the ring are being held on $2.5-million bail each. They all face charges of dealing drugs, conspiracy to distribute drugs and possession.