Evidence mounting as drug investigation goes to court
More than 8,000 pages of evidence have been compiled for court proceedings against the subjects of a major drug and racketeering investigation that has jailed at least 10 people in Garfield County.
In October, the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team (TRIDENT), in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, issued a score of warrants and made eight arrests, seizing 7 pounds of methamphetamine, 2 kilograms of cocaine, $30,000 in U.S. currency, two guns and one vehicle. Two more arrests have since been confirmed in the case, and mounting documentation has slowed down court proceedings.
The first person arrested in the sting, Victor Dominguez Garcia, aka “Cuate,” 37, of Carbondale, described by Assistant District Attorney Jason Slothouber as “local hub” for cocaine distribution, was one of several defendants to appear Thursday morning before Judge Denise Lynch to request a continuance. Garcia, Octavio Arellano-Valdez and Maria Modesta Jimenez were all scheduled to return to court in January.
Defense Attorney Chip McCrory also requested a bond reduction for Juan Cabrera-Bernal, who, along with Dirid Ulloa Arvizu, was one of the most recent arrests in the sting.
McCrory asserted that the gram of cocaine found in Cabrera-Bernal’s possession and the additional 2 grams found at his house were insufficient to justify a felony distribution charge.
“It comes down to a couple of phone calls in June which were intercepted, where the TRIDENT agents put their spin about what was being talked about,” he said.
Cabrera-Bernal, McCrory added, had already posted a bond in Garfield County after a traffic stop on October 8, had been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as he was leaving Garfield County custody, and bonded out of ICE detention only to be immediately arrested again.
Slothouber told the court he believed there was “ample evidence to proceed on the headline charge,” calling Cabrera-Bernal one of the “key redistributors.”
Citing Cabrera-Bernal’s ties to the community — including a job as a delivery driver in Carbondale and a wife with U.S. residency — Lynch ultimately lowered his bond to $20,000 and assigned Cabrera-Bernal a January return date.
The broader investigation, first reported by the Post Independent in October, utilized confidential informants, surveillance and wiretaps. Documents say it uncovered the importation of significant quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico, California and Nevada into western Colorado. Authorities said several of the suspects would purchase or direct and arrange the purchase of large quantities of drugs through a person who operates out of Mexico.
In another case, Robin McMillan, the Garfield County bookkeeper accused of embezzling more than $400,000 from the Clerk and Recorder’s Office, was also granted a continuance Thursday, and was assigned a February return date so as not to conflict with the drug cases.
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A fire in a building at Willits Town Center Thursday night forced Roaring Fork Fire Rescue to prepare for the worst because of residences on the upper two stories. Fortunately the fire was confined to an HVAC unit on the roof.