Raids target group accused of exporting pot

Months of police work led to the sweep of 19 locations across Colorado Thursday. Residential homes as well as warehouses were searched thousands of illegal pot plants seized

DENVER - A months-long investigation led to this week’s sweeping series of drug busts and the charges filed against more than a dozen people, according to court records obtained Friday by 9Wants to Know.

Residential homes as well as warehouses were searched and thousands of illegal pot plants seized. Police say the marijuana was grown to be taken to other states including Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri.

"This should be an eye-opener to the state of Colorado," said 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler. "The true situation is involving cultivation and distributing in the state of Colorado. Whoever is telling you that we’ve got this thing figured out and it’s under wraps, and all the regulations are good to go, and we’re operating as efficiently and lawfully as we can - [that's] nonsense. It is not what is happening yet in the state of Colorado."

The arrests, which stretched from the northern Denver-Metro area to Colorado Springs, resulted in the confiscation of thousands of pounds of marijuana, according to the grand jury indictment obtained by 9NEWS.

According to the indictment, Michael Stonehouse and Rudy Saenz appeared to have state approved marijuana licensing and knew how to legally be in the marijuana business. Yet since 2014, they operated illegally, not reporting or paying marijuana-specific taxes.

They also took it out of state. According to the indictment , that was their primary objective.

"We do have more criminal organizations coming in to do marijuana trafficking and then taking it out of state," said DEA Special Agent Barbara Roach. "We’re seeing ourselves as a larger source of supply for all our outer lining states than we were before." 

Taking down an organization accused of selling marijuana out of state may be a proud moment for law enforcement, but they’re not overly happy to have to devote a tremendous amount of resources to illegal pot.

Law enforcement points to generous Colorado laws that allow for such an organization to sprout in the first place. 

"It’s very easy to come to Colorado, get a drivers license, go to a doctor get an extended plant count for 99 plants," said John Jackson, President of the Colorado Chiefs of Police Association, who added that people will live in homes together to grow plants. "This is what’s happening across our state. This is what we’re investigating and we’re getting to things like this through the local investigative efforts of your local police department."

RELATED: Thousands of illegal marijuana plants seized along the Front Range

The grand jury indictments identified the sixteen people who were arrested and the charges each faces:

  • Jerram Cathey: conspiracy to extract marijuana concentrate.
  • John Mason Cathey: conspiracy to distribute or possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
  • Vincent Castillo: two counts of violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act; two counts of conspiracy to distribute or possession with intent to distribute marijuana; conspiracy to commit money laundering; possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
  • John Cathey: two counts of violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act; conspiracy to distribute or possession with intent to distribute marijuana; conspiracy to extract marijuana concentrate.
  • Myisha Evans: money laundering.
  • William Todd Garner: conspiracy to extract marijuana concentrate.
  • Amy Jones: conspiracy to distribute or possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
  • Jason Jones: two counts of violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act; three counts of conspiracy to distribute or possession with intent to distribute marijuana; two counts of distribution of marijuana.
  • Tilden Lazaro: two counts of violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act; conspiracy to distribute marijuana concentrate; money laundering.
  • Raciel Martinez: conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
  • John Ramsay: conspiracy to extract marijuana concentrate.
  • Rudy Saenz: two counts of violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act; money laundering; conspiracy to distribute or possession with intent to distribute marijuana; money laundering.
  • Jibaro Smith: conspiracy to distribute or possession with intent to manufacture or distribute marijuana; possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
  • Michael Stonehouse: two counts of violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act; conspiracy to distribute or possession with intent to manufacture or distribute more than 50 pounds of marijuana; eight counts of conspiracy to distribute or possession with intent to distribute marijuana; conspiracy to distribute marijuana concentrate; conspiracy to distribute marijuana; conspiracy to extract marijuana concentrate; money laundering.
  • Theodore Stonehouse: two counts of violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act; three counts of conspiracy to distribute or possession with intent to distribute marijuana; money laundering.
  • Vernon Watts: conspiracy to distribute or possession with intent to manufacture or distribute marijuana; distribution of marijuana; money laundering.

The issue is also being addressed at a political level. There is currently a bill moving through the legislature that would limit the number of plants per household to 16.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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