Trial ahead for man accused in ’08 pot farm operation
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – One of the three suspects arrested in Nov. 2008 in connection with an illegal marijuana grow operation near Battlement Mesa is awaiting a January trial.
Luis Luna-Flores, 32, is charged with cultivation of marijuana, conspiracy to cultivate marijuana, possession of more than 8 ounces of marijuana, possession to distribute and conspiracy to distribute, all felonies. He remains free on a $7,000 bond.
An Aug. 3 trial date was canceled after Luna-Flores fired Carbondale attorney Kathy Goudy, who represented him, in July. Luna-Flores entered a not guilty plea on March 10, the same day that the other two men arrested in connection with the case were sentenced for their part in the operation.
Humberto Bautista-Flores, 37, and German Ortiz, 27, pleaded guilty to possession of 8 ounces or more of marijuana in February.
Bautista-Flores was sentenced on March 10, to 18 months in prison and two years of parole after his release. Bautista-Flores was given credit for 120 days which he spent in the Garfield County Jail.
Ortiz also pleaded guilty to possession but only received three years unsupervised probation. Charges of cultivation, possession with intent to distribute and distribution of marijuana, were dropped in the two cases.
The three were arrested after the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team confiscated around 890 marijuana plants, some as tall as 10 feet, in a canyon south of Battlement Mesa, after a landowner tipped off authorities of the plants. An arrest affidavit stated that “the height of the larger plants indicated that this grow operation has been operating for multiple years.”
The grow area covered about 150 yards, according to the report. Investigators also found hundreds of feet of hose, plant fertilizer, weed killer, and rodent poison at one of the camps, along with sleeping bags, a tent, food, and several empty Vodka bottles.
According to court documents, TRIDENT officers found medical records at a camp located near the grow site with Flores’ name on it. Two days after officers confiscated the plants, officers returned to the site and witnessed Flores, at the base of the grow site, rush toward a Dodge Caravan that was blocking County Road 309, the report stated.
The officer pulled the vehicle over for blocking the road and for having a defective taillight.
The affidavit stated that Luna-Flores was the driver of the van, and inside the van officers discovered a black trash bag allegedly full of “stems” and another bag containing 9.6 pounds of suspected marijuana.
Until recently, Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario considered this to be the largest illegal operation in the County’s history. However, Monday’s confiscation of 928 pot plants on private land southeast of Glenwood Springs exceeded that previous operation.
TRIDENT seized the plants Monday, worth an estimated $2 million, after another land owner discovered the operation and contacted the Sheriff’s Office, Vallario said.
No arrests have been made in Monday’s case, and the investigation remains open.
Vallario said Tuesday that operations like this are not uncommon for rural areas like Garfield County.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Forest Service said that they were investigating illegal cultivation operations in Colorado’s national forests following a discovery of more than 14,000 plants in the Pike National Forest, west of Colorado Springs, in July. According to an Associated Press report, authorities spent more than 24 hours clearing a marijuana growing operation on forest land near Cheesman Reservoir, estimated to be worth $2.5 million.
The difference between that operation and the two in Garfield County is that, the ones in Garfield County occurred on private, not public lands.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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