What started as an investigation into a string of alleged bank robberies has evolved into what's now called the largest drug bust in Colorado history. According to enforcement officials, they have at least 80 people in custody after a massive sweep through the Denver area. As many as 17 additional people are said to be still at large at the time this post is being written.
Because of the scope of the police action and the breadth of agencies involved some criminal defense experts suggest that police search and seizure practices may need to be looked at very carefully. It is not unusual for authorities to falter in their duty to protect the constitutional rights of individuals facing drug crime charges in their normal daily practices. In large scale action like this, mistakes get made.
Officials from local, state and federal agencies were all involved in this case. They date the start of their efforts back to December 2009, when they launched a probe into 16 alleged violent bank robberies. They say suspected gang members were believed responsible for those jobs, so police focused on finding them. They say that as the investigation developed, it began to reveal what they describe as a "complex narcotics conspiracy."
Prosecutors say that as a result of the sweep, authorities confiscated 58 pounds of cocaine, two pounds of crack and one pound of methamphetamine. Additionally, they say they seized assault rifles and handguns and more than $400,000 in cash.
The officials say that 25 of the 80 people in custody are suspected gang members. They have been charged with the bank robberies. The rest, including the 17 people still believed to be at large, are charged with drug crimes in federal or state court.
Source: Reuters, "Eighty arrested in drug bust called biggest ever in Colorado," Keith Coffman, Feb. 9, 2012