14 arrested, $450,000 worth of meth seized

DURANGO – A long-term investigation has led to the bust of an organization authorities say was moving large quantities of methamphetamine from southwestern US cities to Durango and southwest Colorado.

The Southwest Drug Task Force, US Drug Enforcement Administration and Sixth Judicial District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday the arrests of 14 people, the seizure of about 10 pounds of meth worth $450,000, thousands of dollars in cash and the recovery of stolen guns and other property.

The investigation centered on Joseph Fitapelli of Bayfield. On March 11, two Las Vegas residents were arrested with about 4-pounds of methamphetamine in their vehicle, which investigators believe was intended for Fitapelli. In a separate traffic stop, Fitapelli was arrested in possession of $8,000 to $10,000 cash.

Authorities say the drug trafficking organization was connected all the way up to high-level Mexican drug cartels.

All 14 arrested are accused of distribution of a schedule I controlled substance. They are identified as:

Joseph Fitapelli, Bayfield, CO, 55

Derrik Martinez, Durango, CO, 28

Jose Garcia-Ochoa, Las Vegas, NV, 19

Pamela Chandler, Durango, CO, 50

Peyton St. Germain, Durango, CO, 21

Loyd Groomer, Farmington, NM, 58

Milton Korthank, Durango, CO, 38

Daniel Gastelo-Ochoa, Las Vegas, NV, 24

Aaron McMinn, Bayfield, CO, 41

Danielle Burton, Bayfield, CO, 38

Ronnie Gunkel, Bayfield, CO, 41

Cristian Lopez, Las Vegas, NV, 22

Miguel Miranda-Sanchez, Las Vegas, NV, 23

Travis Schield, Durango, CO, 49

The case is still under investigation with other arrests expected.


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