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'Operation Whiteout' indicts 33 in Fort Collins-Loveland-Greeley drug ring

8:26 PM, Nov 9, 2011   |    comments
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The suspects are part of a ring of 33 people who used homes and businesses across Fort Collins to distribute as much as 20 kilograms of cocaine and other drugs each month.

The operation, one of the largest ever in Northern Colorado, was dismantled Wednesday through "Operation Whiteout," according to a 94-count indictment released Wednesday.

"This operation has, for the time being, wiped out a significant amount of the supply of cocaine and methamphetamine in Northern Colorado," said Colorado Attorney General John Suthers at a press conference in Denver.

During raids conducted last month, investigators with the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force seized 5 pounds of cocaine, a pound of methamphetamine, 26 pounds of marijuana, 15 firearms and $90,000 in cash. About 10 vehicles also were seized, said Sgt. Gary Shaklee with the drug task force.

Investigators said drugs were moved from New Mexico and were distributed among Larimer County communities and Greeley, and as far as Wyoming and Montana.

Officials said the operation was under way for at least three to five years. Some members of the drug ring are suspected of trading drugs for guns.

Twenty-two of the 33 had been arrested by Wednesday. All but three of the remaining suspects are believed to still be in Northern Colorado.

Anthony Harvey, 35, the suspected ringleader, is an "established resident and small-business owner," running a Fort Collins concrete business, Shaklee said.

Harvey remains in Larimer County Jail.

His business, Decorative Concrete Finishes, has a shop in the area of 200 Commerce Drive in Fort Collins. The shop and Harvey's home on the 2000 block of Manchester were both among many addresses used to move cocaine to distributors, according to the indictment.

Harvey is suspected of being directly involved primarily with the cocaine, procuring it from Abdon Loya-Sanchez and distributing it among at least 13 dealers, each of whom is named in the indictment.

Shaklee said traffickers used drug proceeds to pay employees, and money was laundered through the business, as well. Harvey and Alan Johnson – a painter suspected of running the ring's methamphetamine dealings – mostly hired family and friends to run their companies, he said.

Johnson was arrested Friday in Broomfield.

Suthers said the price of meth lately in Colorado had been going down, and he anticipates there may be a price spike on the drug here thanks to the arrests.

Shaklee said the "huge" operation involved every member of the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force, which has less than a dozen people.

"It was our focus the entire summer," he said, adding that he's "confident" the arrests will impact the "immediate availability" of drugs in Northern Colorado.

Kevin Merrill, assistant special agent in charge with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Denver Field Division, said the "very close-knit" drug-trafficking operation had significant organization, with many guns. The arrests didn't result in any shoot-outs.

The indictment details how suspects earlier this year met in parking lots, apartments and storage units across Fort Collins and Loveland to exchange cash for several ounces of drugs. Cell phones were used extensively in the network, and many of the meetings included confidential informants of law enforcement.

Members of the operation moved money through local concrete and painting businesses they ran on the side, Shaklee of the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force said. He said suspects used code such as "work" and types of auto parts when talking about drugs through their telephones

"They all have their own spin on what they think is going to fly under the radar," Shaklee said

Nine of the suspects were arrested in a Sept. 30 takedown that involved 11 search warrants served across Larimer County. Others have been arrested more recently, appearing for advisement at Larimer County Justice Center, but the indictment was sealed until it was made available to media Wednesday.

Shaklee said the guns had been linked to robberies, thefts and other crimes in the area. He said the marijuana is of the cheap "brick weed" variety not associated with that grown in Colorado.

It's difficult to estimate how much money the ring brought in, but several hundred thousand dollars were circulating "at any given time," Shaklee said.

He added that money from the drug deals was "always going somewhere outside our community."

Harvey, Johnson and about 10 others are charged with counts of racketeering participation and conspiracy, both of which are Class 2 felonies punishable by up to 24 years in prison.

Charges against those indicted include numerous counts of conspiracy to distribute a schedule II substance, a Class 3 felony punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

A kilogram of cocaine is purchased for about $24,000 to $27,000. As it moves through the chain of distribution, cutting agents are applied and the kilogram's value increases to about $50,000, Shaklee said.

Shaklee said traffickers used drug proceeds to pay employees, and money was laundered through the business, as well. Harvey and Alan Johnson – a painter suspected of running the ring's methamphetamine dealings – mostly hired family and friends to run their companies, he said.

Johnson was arrested Friday in Broomfield.

Suthers said the price of meth lately in Colorado had been going down, and he anticipates there may be a price spike on the drug here thanks to the arrests.

Shaklee said the "huge" operation involved every member of the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force, which has less than a dozen people.

"It was our focus the entire summer," he said, adding that he's "confident" the arrests will impact the "immediate availability" of drugs in Northern Colorado.

Kevin Merrill, assistant special agent in charge with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Denver Field Division, said the "very close-knit" drug-trafficking operation had significant organization, with many guns. The arrests didn't result in any shoot-outs.

The indictment details how suspects earlier this year met in parking lots, apartments and storage units across Fort Collins and Loveland to exchange cash for several ounces of drugs. Cell phones were used extensively in the network, and many of the meetings included confidential informants of law enforcement.

Members of the operation moved money through local concrete and painting businesses they ran on the side, Shaklee of the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force said. He said suspects used code such as "work" and types of auto parts when talking about drugs through their telephones

"They all have their own spin on what they think is going to fly under the radar," Shaklee said

Nine of the suspects were arrested in a Sept. 30 takedown that involved 11 search warrants served across Larimer County. Others have been arrested more recently, appearing for advisement at Larimer County Justice Center, but the indictment was sealed until it was made available to media Wednesday.

Shaklee said the guns had been linked to robberies, thefts and other crimes in the area. He said the marijuana is of the cheap "brick weed" variety not associated with that grown in Colorado.

It's difficult to estimate how much money the ring brought in, but several hundred thousand dollars were circulating "at any given time," Shaklee said.

He added that money from the drug deals was "always going somewhere outside our community."

Harvey, Johnson and about 10 others are charged with counts of racketeering participation and conspiracy, both of which are Class 2 felonies punishable by up to 24 years in prison.

Charges against those indicted include numerous counts of conspiracy to distribute a schedule II substance, a Class 3 felony punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

A kilogram of cocaine is purchased for about $24,000 to $27,000. As it moves through the chain of distribution, cutting agents are applied and the kilogram's value increases to about $50,000, Shaklee said.

This story written by Robert Allen, Fort Collins Coloradoan.

(Copyright © 2011 Fort Collins Coloradoan, All Rights Reserved)

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