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April 25, 2018
Two Arrested in Connection with Illegal Marijuana Grow in Pueblo West

Yuremi Alarcon-Figueroa Arian Baez

A citizen’s tip of a possible illegal marijuana grow operation at a home in Pueblo West led to the arrest of two people with ties to Cuba, after Pueblo County Sheriff’s Deputies discovered more than 70 marijuana plants worth an estimated $216,000 in the residence.

Deputies responded to the home in the 1100 block of Lilac Court in Pueblo West this morning and spoke with the male resident, Arian Baez, 29, asking if he was growing marijuana. Baez admitted to deputies he was growing marijuana but said he had a license to do so. Baez invited deputies into his home to view the grow operation, which he said was for personal use. Deputies found 72 marijuana plants in various stages of growth in two rooms in the basement and in the garage. Colorado law limits the number of marijuana plants per household at 12.

Baez and his wife, Yuremi Alarcon-Figueroa, 27, were each arrested for possession with intent to distribute more than 50 pounds of marijuana (18-18-406) (Felony 1) and possession of more than 30 marijuana plants (18-18-406 3) (Felony 3). Both were booked into Pueblo County Jail. Deputies seized all but 12 of the marijuana plants.

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February 28, 2018
Burning Marijuana Leads Deputies to Illegal Grow in Pueblo West

Stephen Robert  Young Jr.

Pueblo County Sheriff’s Deputies arrested a 28-year-old man and seized nearly 100 marijuana plants after discovering an illegal grow operation at a Pueblo West home.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence in the 1300 block of W. Ferncliff Court Monday afternoon when a citizen reported seeing a trash barrel on fire and smelling a strong odor of marijuana coming from the area.

When deputies arrived at the home, they contacted a woman who confirmed her husband was growing marijuana on the property and he currently was burning marijuana leaves in the trash barrel. The woman told deputies the marijuana was for her, but her husband tended to the plants. The woman then led deputies to a detached garage where her husband was located. The man, identified as Stephen Robert Young Jr., allowed deputies inside the garage, where he showed them four separate rooms containing various amounts of marijuana plants.

Deputies then exited the garage and requested a search warrant. Sheriff’s Narcotics Detectives executed the search warrant and seized 98 marijuana plants, assorted grow equipment and other equipment typically used in butane hash oil production. Young did not have a license to grow marijuana.

Young was arrested for three drug felonies: cultivation of marijuana (30 or more plants, 18-18-406), possession of marijuana with intent to distribute (over 50 pounds, 18-18-406) and extraction of marijuana (inherently hazardous substance, 18-18-406.6). He was booked into Pueblo County Jail. The woman was not arrested.

During the investigation, deputies learned Young is on probation in the Fourth Judicial District in El Paso County for marijuana-related convictions out of Kansas.

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October 10, 2017
Four with Ties to Cuba Arrested in Illegal Marijuana Grow Operations in Pueblo County

58thlane

quailroad3

Pueblo County Sheriff’s Detectives arrested four people, all with ties to Cuba, this morning after conducting operations at two related illegal marijuana grow sites in Pueblo County. More than 365 marijuana plants, worth an estimated street value of $1 million, were seized along with five weapons and various types of grow equipment following simultaneously conducted searches at a home in Eastern Pueblo County and at a second residence in Northern Pueblo County.

Detectives, with assistance from DEA and FBI Safe Streets, executed search warrants early this morning at a home in the 1800 block of 58th Lane and a second property in the 5000 block of Quail Road near Midway Ranch after receiving tips of possible illegal marijuana cultivation operations being conducted at the sites.

At the 58th Lane residence, detectives found three indoor commercial-type grows which contained a combined 85 mature marijuana plants. The grows were in separate locations and each was modified with elaborate lighting and irrigation systems to specifically grow marijuana. Three people were arrested at this location: Jose Alberto Gonzalez, 31; Sergio Luis Martinez-Suarez, 44; and Yoandris Bacallao-Ramos, 40. All three were arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, cultivation of marijuana and conspiracy. They have been booked into Pueblo County Jail.

At the Quail Road location, detectives discovered two large outdoor grows, including one that was fenced in and hidden under a large fabric awning. These two grows yielded a combined 283 mature plants. Francisco Jose Sanchez, 50, was arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, cultivation of marijuana, conspiracy, possession of a weapon by a previous offender and special offender. He was booked into Pueblo County Jail.

Detectives believe all the suspects know each other and the two grow operations are related. The marijuana was believed to have been grown here and processed and shipped out of Colorado for sale.

“This is another example of people coming from out-of-state to grow marijuana illegally to then sell it on the black market,” said Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor. “What’s concerning to me is they are infiltrating nearly every corner of our county with this type of illegal activity.”

Taylor added the illegal grows are damaging to the environment and hazardous to the area due to the type of chemicals used for fertilizer and the extensive alterations made to electrical and watering systems to grow the plants.

Today’s operations are the second and third sizeable busts made by the Sheriff’s Office in Pueblo County in the past seven days. On October 2, detectives arrested nine people, including a juvenile and seized more than 800 marijuana plants in various stages of growth along with an estimated 500 pounds of dried product from a field in the 7800 block of Colorado Highway 96. Only one of the nine suspects was a U.S. Citizen, the others were Mexican citizens.

 

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October 4, 2017
Nine Arrested, $3.9 Million in Illegal Marijuana Seized in Western Pueblo County Grow Operation

7000 Highway96 grow

The Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office conducted a major illegal marijuana cultivation bust Monday in the 7800 block of Colorado Highway 96 West, west of Pueblo. Multiple Sheriff’s Deputies and Detectives along with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, arrested nine people, including a juvenile, following the discovery of two significant illegal marijuana grow fields located on private property. Deputies seized more than 800 marijuana plants in various stages of growth along with an estimated 500 pounds of recently harvested and dried marijuana. The combined estimated street value of the grow is $3.9 million.

The Sheriff’s Office received information of a possible illegal marijuana grow on a 40-acre parcel of property. Patrol Deputies confirmed the information received that there was marijuana being grown on the property. Detectives conducted surveillance and checked with licensing entities in Pueblo County and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment and it was determined no legal license was obtained. Attempts to contact the listed property owner have been unsuccessful and authorities continue to investigate the possible connection and/or involvement of the property owner. Evidence gleaned from surveillance confirmed suspicions of a clandestine grow.

A search warrant was obtained and executed Monday morning. Deputies, detectives, members of the Sheriff’s Office SWAT team and ICE, surrounded the two grow fields when several individuals took off running from the area. Authorities quickly apprehended nine individuals, all believed to have connections to Mexico and one of which was a previously deported felon who will now face additional federal charges. Deputies searched several hours for the three other suspects, who fled on foot into a nearby wooded area and have not been apprehended. A Reverse 9-1-1 call went out to residents in the area urging them to be aware of any suspicious activity or individuals.

In a search of the property, deputies also found guns, several make-shift shelters, drying tables, drying lines, packaging materials as well as an elaborate irrigation system similar to those found in previous illegal outdoor grow operations that had cartel ties. There also was a complex watering system which included a well, operated by a large gas generator, a holding pond and a 300-gallon water storage tank.

Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor said, “We uncovered this particular grow right at harvest and took hundreds of pounds of illegal marijuana out of circulation. It is concerning to me the location of the grow. These types of operations have been typically found in isolated locales in our mountains. These suspects are becoming more and more brazen in bringing them closer to the city of Pueblo.”

All nine individuals were arrested each for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, cultivation of marijuana and conspiracy. Those arrested in Monday’s bust were:

• Juan Sanchez-Rodrigues, 21.
• Jose Beltran-Valdez, 64.
• Lorenzo Rodriguez-Paredes, 45.
• Luis Ramirez-Rueda, 39.
• Luis Moreno-Garibay, 24.
• Ramon Hernandez-Cruz, 26.
• Tomas Sanchez-Vasquez, 49.
• Eugenio Ramirez-Arreola, 42.

The eight adults were booked into the Pueblo County Jail. The 16-year-old juvenile male and only U.S. Citizen of the nine, was booked into the Pueblo Youth Services Center. His name was not released as he is a juvenile. The investigation is ongoing.

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September 27, 2017
Two Arrested in Illegal Marijuana Grow, Hash Oil Operation at Pueblo West Home

500 block Raymont1

500 block Raymont

Two men were arrested and a third is facing possible charges in connection with an illegal marijuana grow and butane hash oil operation discovered at a Pueblo West home Tuesday by members of the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations/Narcotics Unit.

Detectives went to the home in the 500 block of N. Raymont Drive on the report of a possible marijuana grow at the residence. Detectives contacted the residents of the home, who were very cooperative and allowed deputies to check the legality and quantity of marijuana plants in the home.

In a brief search of the home, detectives discovered 146 marijuana plants growing in the garage and in three separate rooms in the basement. The number of plants found in the home was well above the limit the occupants were allowed. The basement also had been heavily modified to accommodate the large marijuana grow.

In addition to the grow operation, detectives discovered the residents were actively manufacturing hash oil using butane and commercial-grade extraction equipment. Detectives executed a search warrant and conducted a more thorough search of the home.

Detectives arrested Reinaldo Castillo, 53, and Jose Castillo, 52, each for conspiracy, unlawful extraction of marijuana concentrate, possession with intent to manufacture or distribute marijuana or marijuana concentrate and cultivation of marijuana. Both men have been booked into Pueblo County jail.

Charges for a third man, Sandalio Cardenas, 59, are being referred to the Pueblo County 10th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

The investigation is ongoing.

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September 13, 2017
Pueblo West Man Arrested After Firing Several Shots at Deputies, Nearby Residences

weapons recovered

The swift response and quick actions by Pueblo County Sheriff’s deputies led to the early morning arrest of a Pueblo West man, who fired shots at deputies and nearby residences causing more than $10,000 in damages. No one was injured in the incident.

Benjamin Chavez, 43, was arrested for three counts of attempted first-degree murder on a peace officer, attempted first-degree murder, criminal attempt, illegal discharge of a firearm, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and possession of a weapon by a previous offender.

“This easily could’ve had a very different outcome due to the reckless disregard this suspect had by indiscriminately shooting in a residential area and at our deputies” said Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor. “I commend the deputies for their quick thinking and putting their active-shooter training to use to get this resolved in a peaceful manner.”

Deputies responded to the area of Rustic Drive and N. Canvas Drive at about 3 a.m., shortly after being dispatched on a report of shots fired. When deputies arrived, they spoke to a witness who said he was awakened by the sound of gunshots. The witnesses said when he went outside his home to investigate where the shots were coming from, he heard a shot hit the ground near him. The witness said he then ran back inside his home.

As the two deputies were investigating the incident, they heard multiple gunshots and heard and saw evidence of several rounds hitting the ground near them. The deputies sought cover behind a structure in the 500 block of N. Canvas Drive, where they subsequently heard another estimated 15 to 20 more shots fired. The deputies were able to determine the shots were coming from the residence in the 1100 block of Rustic Drive.

The Sheriff’s Office SWAT team was called out and nearby residents were notified for safety reasons via a reverse 911 call of the police action in the area. Pueblo County School District 70 officials also were notified due to school bus routes being in the vicinity of the incident. After a brief standoff, Chavez walked out of the yard at about 5 a.m. and was taken into custody without incident. He was the only resident in the home.

Deputies later executed a search warrant on the property and found nine guns, including two assault rifles, and various types of ammunition in locations throughout the home and yard. Deputies also discovered two guns near a residential greenhouse that contained numerous marijuana plants.

In searching the surrounding area, deputies found multiple shell casings in the backyard of Chavez’s home. There also was damage discovered to a nearby home and several vehicles in the area, all believed to have been caused by the gunshots. The damage has been estimated at $10,900.

The investigation is ongoing.

 

 

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September 1, 2017
More than 7,400 Marijuana Plants Found in Illegal Grow Fields Near Rye

mjgrowaug2017c

More than 7,400 Marijuana Plants Found in Illegal Grow Fields Near Rye
Sheriff’s Office has eradicated 27,644 plants in area since 2012

Pueblo, CO: The Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Forest Service, with assistance from three other agencies, discovered and eradicated more than 7,400 marijuana plants Wednesday from two illegal grow fields located northwest of the town of Rye. No arrests have been made.

Sheriff’s Narcotics Detectives, SWAT team members and officials from the U.S. Forest Service, DEA, ICE-Enforcement Removal Operations and Homeland Security Immigration, found 7,438 marijuana plants, assorted grow equipment and make-shift shelters on rugged land located on both private property and San Isabel National Forest land.

The operation was the second, 7,400-plus plant illegal grow discovered in just two months in fields near the town of Rye. On June 30, detectives found 7,406 marijuana plants growing on an upper and lower field near the Huckleberry Hills area.

Since August 2012, Pueblo County Sheriff’s deputies have removed more 27,644 marijuana plants from six illegal marijuana grow fields found on or near San Isabel National Forest property in the past five years.

“As we continue to find these large illegal marijuana grows, it’s an indication the black market maintains a strong presence in Colorado,” said Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor. “This type of activity is not only illegal, but it is detrimental to our mountain environment. We will continue to seek out and eradicate these operations until those responsible for the grows realize it is against the law.”

In Wednesday’s bust, a tip from hikers led investigators to the area of the grow operations that were located on property near North Muddy Creek and Little Saint Charles Creek. Detectives believe both fields were being operated by the same individuals. Detectives found 5,887 plants on private property and another 1,551 plants on U.S. Forest Service property.

 

The Sheriff’s Office discovered the first illegal marijuana grows in the San Isabel National Forest in August 2012, dismantling more than 9,400 plants in two fields. Two weeks later on August 31, 2012, Pueblo County Sheriff’s Captain Leide DeFusco and Retired Pueblo Police Captain John Barger died when their plane went down while conducting air surveillance for other possible marijuana grows in the San Isabel National Forest.

In October 2015, another grow consisting of 2,400 plants was found near Millset Trail in the San Isabel National Forest and in July 2016, 1,000 marijuana plants were found growing on private property near the Table Top Mountain Area.

The first four grows discovered are believed to be connected to drug trafficking organizations based in Mexico. Detectives are still investigating whether the last two grows are connected to the previous operations.

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July 31, 2017
County Resident Openly Growing Marijuana is Arrested

Shives_booking photo

Shortly after 1 p.m. Friday, July 28, an anonymous caller reported what appeared to be dozens of marijuana plants growing in plain sight at the 300 block of 25th Lane. Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office patrol deputies responded and confirmed the plants were marijuana and that the resident appeared to be in violation of CRS 18-18-406 (3) A.I. Cultivation of Marijuana a Class 3 Felony.
Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office detectives responded to the scene where 60-year-old Brian Shives told detectives he was growing as a “caregiver” but wasn’t able to provide paperwork supporting his claim. Detectives counted more than 85 plants on the property, well over the allotted number.
After obtaining a search warrant, the Sheriff’s office confiscated the majority of the plants. Once inside the home, detectives discovered evidence of Butane Hash Oil (BHO) manufacturing.
Shives was taken into custody and will be charged with Drug Felony 3, Cultivation of marijuana and Drug Felony 1, Manufacturing Hash Oil.

 

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July 1, 2017
Thousands of Marijuana Plants Discovered in Grows on Forest Land in Pueblo County

Marijuanagrows1

Pueblo County Sheriff’s Narcotics Detectives discovered more than 7,400 marijuana plants in an illegal grow found Friday in two separate fields on U.S. Forest Service land near the town of Rye. The illegal grow is the second largest operation uncovered in Pueblo County to date and the fifth found in fields on or near the San Isabel National Forest in the past five years.

In the most recent bust, detectives received a tip from a hiker who discovered the grow on Forest Service land near the Huckleberry Hills area, located northwest of the town of Rye. The hiker also reported seeing several individuals in the area of the grows engaged in suspicious activity.

On Friday, detectives went to check the site and discovered thousands of marijuana plants growing in both an upper and lower field in the San Isabel National Forest. Detectives encountered two individuals dressed in camouflage clothing who are believed to have been caring for the plants. No arrests have been made as the suspects fled before additional resources could arrive to set up a perimeter around the grow site.

Detectives found 2,005 marijuana plants in the upper field and another 5,401 plants in the lower field. The estimated street value of the plants is more than $7 million. Detectives also found evidence individuals were staying on the property, similar to what was discovered with previous illegal marijuana grows found in the area. Lean-ins, cook stoves, food containers, blankets and other items were found near the grow sites. Samples of the plants were taken and all have been eradicated from the fields.

Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor, who lives in Rye, said these marijuana grows in the mountains are not only illegal but are detrimental to the forest.

“These grows are not indigenous to Colorado and the water and fertilizers required for these grow operations represent a clear environmental hazard for our beautiful Colorado mountains,” Taylor said. “We certainly appreciate and encourage anyone who is out enjoying our mountains and sees something that they think is suspicious, to report it to the Sheriff’s Office.”

The illegal grow is the now the fifth such operation found in or near the San Isabel National Forest since 2012. In August 2012, the Sheriff’s Office found and dismantled two marijuana grows consisting of more than 9,400 plants in the San Isabel National Forest.

In October 2015, another grow consisting of 2,400 plants was found near Millset Trail in the San Isabel National Forest and in July 2016, 1,000 marijuana plants were found growing on private property near the Table Top Mountain area.

The four previous grows are believed to be connected to a Mexican cartel. Detectives are still investigating whether Friday’s grow is connected to any of the previous grows.

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May 20, 2017
Two Arrested in Stolen Vehicle at Drive-Thru of Fast Food Restaurant

Christina Wojtala Johnathan Schaffer

Pueblo County Sheriff’s Deputies arrested a man and a woman this afternoon while they were waiting in the drive-thru line of a Downtown fast food restaurant after learning they were driving a stolen vehicle.

Deputies observed a white Ford Escape that had been reported stolen out of the Pueblo Police Department going into the drive-thru line of Carl’s Jr., 102 S. Santa Fe Avenue. The vehicle also matched the description of a vehicle that fled from deputies approximately two weeks ago in Pueblo West when they responded to a suspicious activity call.

This afternoon, as the vehicle approached the drive-thru window of Carl’s Jr., deputies were able to box it in and apprehend the driver, Johnathan T. Schaffer, 39, and a passenger, Christina M. Wojtala, 31. Deputies found a loaded handgun on Schaffer and plastic bags containing suspected heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine. Deputies learned the vehicle also had stolen license plates and the vehicle body had been altered to make it appear as if it was of another make and model.

Schaffer was arrested without incident for first-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft, possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm by a previous offender and a special offender.

Wojtala was arrested for first-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft and a restraining order violation.

Both suspects were booked into the Pueblo County Detention Center.

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