Colorado announces largest pot bust since drug was legalized
DENVER — Colorado officials announced Wednesday that they have busted a mammoth marijuana trafficking ring that pretended to be growing weed for sick people but was instead illegally shipping the drug to a half-dozen other states and bilking investors, including former NFL players.
A Denver grand jury indicted 62 people and 12 businesses in a case that involved federal and state agents executing nearly 150 search warrants in 33 homes and 18 warehouses and storage units in the Denver area.
The indictment was returned June 9 and announced Wednesday by state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.
“The black market for marijuana has not gone away since recreational marijuana was legalized in our state, and in fact continues to flourish,” Coffman said in a statement.
The indictment targets the largest illegal marijuana operation since Colorado legalized recreational pot in 2012, Coffman said.
The grand jury indictment says the enterprise produced more than 100 pounds a month of illegal pot for shipment to Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and other states that weren’t listed. The ring operated from 2012 until 2016 and raked in an estimated $200,000 a month, Coffman said.
The defendants are charged with 31 felony counts, and most are now under arrest awaiting trial dates in Denver District Court. Charges include money-laundering and other financial crimes.
Prosecutors say that one of the conspirators, Connor Brooks, duped friends, including two former National Football League players, into investing in his illegal scheme.
Brooks allegedly got money from Erik Pears, an undrafted free agent most recently with the San Francisco 49ers, and Joel Dreessen, a former Denver Broncos tight end, the indictment says.
Neither football player is accused of a crime, and the indictment does not say how much the two invested in what they thought was a legal marijuana business. Other investors gave money, too, the indictment said.
“These individuals each provided tens of thousands of dollars to Connor Brooks to fund an allegedly legal grow operation and they did not receive any of their invested funds back from Connor Brooks as promised,” the indictment said.
It was not immediately clear if Brooks or any other defendant had an attorney.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, along with the Kansas State Patrol and Nebraska State Patrol, participated in the investigation.
“Since 2014 there has been an influx of these organized criminal groups to Colorado for the sole purpose of producing marijuana to sell in other states,” said Barbra Roach, special agent in charge of the DEA’s Denver Field Division.
In a statement, Roach added that “the marijuana black market has increased exponentially since state legalization.”
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