DENVER (CBS4)– Authorities claim they’ve busted up an elaborate operation that smuggled massive quantities of marijuana out of Denver, arresting more than 30 people.
Of those charged, the alleged ringleader was a skydiving instructor who allegedly used his plane to transport the pot. The orchestrators of the drug ring apparently chose Colorado mistakenly thinking that law enforcement would be relaxed and wouldn’t vigorously pursue arrests.
In October 2014, law enforcement raided an illegal marijuana growing operation in North Denver run out out multiple warehouses. The raid uprooted a massive drug ring where thousands of pounds of marijuana was shipped to Minnesota.
Authorities claim the ring netted more than $12 million over four years.
Last week a grand jury indicted 32 people connected to the drug ring including growers, drug mules, hash producers and pilots. The suspects face racketeering, money laundering and felony marijuana charges for cultivation and distribution.
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Court documents show a large but poorly trained organization whose members were caught multiple times by police. According to documents, the suspects would often confess with little resistance which helped investigators pursue the case.
A key member of the conspiracy is Joseph Johnson who owns Westside Skydiving. Authorities believe Johnson flew more than 1,500 pounds of marijuana to Minnesota along with more than $2 million in cash.
Johnson was caught after a flight to the Houston area allegedly to expand sales. He was arrested while driving 60 pounds of marijuana and more than $300,000 back to Colorado because he wanted to save money on gas.
Court documents detail that Johnson’s operation was located in an area surrounded by legitimate growers. When approached about legalizing his grow, he allegedly rejected offers saying, “I’m making too much money doing what I’m doing.”