AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– A popular grocery store in Aurora was raided as part of the takedown of a large-scale cocaine and methamphetamine organization.
Because of Thursday’s law enforcement operation, nine people were arrested, with one additional defendant already in custody. Seven more are considered fugitives, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver.
The investigation tracked the inner workings of a Mexican-led drug trafficking organization that brought drugs into the country through California to Colorado.
The defendants allegedly brought cocaine and methamphetamine into the country from Mexico and transported it in vehicles with secret compartments.
The drugs were held at three stash locations in Aurora and then brought to the El Rancho Market at 15401 East Mississippi in Aurora to be parceled out and distributed.
The El Rancho Market, in addition to sundries food and other products, also has a money transfer station, which is how some drug proceeds were distributed from Colorado back to Mexico. Other methods of moving money included smuggling bulk cash in vehicle secret compartments.
Regular customers of the El Rancho Market, like Alex Esparza, are stunned.
“It always seemed like a legit place,” he said. “We just ate here yesterday and the service was good, nothing suspicious.”
The lead defendant, Jose Tapia-Rubio, a.k.a “Don Chequetas”, 58, is a resident of Aurora but from Mexico. He has been charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise (CCE), also known as a “Drug King Pin.”
If convicted on this charge, Tapia-Rubio faces not less than 20 years and up to life in federal prison, as well as a $2 million fine.
“The stupidest thing a drug trafficker can do is bring his dope business to Colorado,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer. “We have the most sophisticated investigators, prosecutors, and partnerships you will find anywhere, and we don’t tolerate the poisoning of our people.”
Rubio’s home in Aurora looks like a fortress with tall privacy gates and numerous security cameras mounted outside. Police say this home is one of the three stash houses for the drugs. It is also where Rubio’s son says he lives with his four children. He says he had no idea his father-in-law was dealing drugs.
Cops say those drugs were often buried in containers out back and people would come dig them up from time to time. In a three-year period, police say Rubio made 140 cash deposits totaling $3 million.
This case was investigated by the Denver Strike Force, which includes the following agencies: DEA, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigation, the FBI, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, U.S. Marshal Service, West Metro Drug Task Force, Northern Colorado Drug Task Force, Colorado Attorney General’s Office, Colorado State Patrol and the Denver Police Department.
LIST OF DEFENDANTS IN STRIKE FORCE INDICTMENT
- JOSE TAPIA-RUBIO, a.k.a. “Don Chaquetas,” age 58, resident of Aurora, Colorado, from Mexico (naturalized U.S. citizen) ARRESTED THURSDAY IN AURORA
- JUAN CARLOS MEDINA-SOBERANIS, age 31, resident of Aurora, Colorado, from California FUGITIVE
- LARA ZAMORA-CRUZ, a.k.a. “Maria Lara-Reyes,” age 63, resident of Northridge, California, from El Salvador (naturalized U.S. citizen) ARRESTED THURSDAY IN CALIFORNIA
- ERIK PARRA, a.k.a. “Flaco,” age unknown, resident of Metro Denver, Colorado, from California FUGITIVE
- JOSE CHICA-ORELLANA, a.k.a. “Adrian,” age unknown, resident of Aspen, Colorado, from El Salvador IN CUSTODY PRIOR TO THURSDAY
- SELESTINO HERNANDEZ-MAYO, a.k.a. “Chakichan,” age 45, resident of Aurora, Colorado, from Mexico ARRESTED THURSDAY IN AURORA
- CLAUDIA LISSETH-LARA, age 41, resident of Granada Hills, California, from El Salvador (naturalized U.S. citizen) ARRESTED THURSDAY IN CALIFORNIA
- VILMA L. ZAMORA, age 67, resident of Reseda, California, from El Salvador ARRESTED THURSDAY IN CALIFORNIA
- FREDY PAZ-HERRERA, a.k.a. “Avispero,” age unknown, resident of Breckenridge, California, from Mexico FUGTIVE
- FIRST NAME UNKNOWN, LAST NAME UNKNOWN, a.k.a. “Bancholas,” age unknown, in Mexico FUGITIVE
- RODRIGO MORA-SANCHEZ, a.k.a. “Pelon,” age 49, resident of Aurora, Colorado, from Mexico (naturalized U.S. citizen) ARRESTED THURSDAY IN AURORA
- OSCAR MORA-CAMPOS, age unknown, resident of Aspen, from Mexico ARRESTED THURSDAY IN ASPEN
- EDUARDO JIMENEZ-SANCHEZ, age 37, resident of New Castle, Colorado, from Mexico ARRESTED THURSDAY IN BRECKENRIDGE
- FIRST NAME UNKNOWN, LAST NAME UNKNOWN, a.k.a. “Changuito,” age unknown, in Mexico FUGITIVE
- FIRST NAME UNKNOWN, LAST NAME UNKNOWN, a.k.a. “UM-9584,” age unknown, in Mexico FUGITIVE
- LEOPOLDO RODRIGUEZ-PADILLA, age unknown, resident of California, from Mexico FUGITIVE
- HEBERTO MORA-SANCHEZ, a.k.a. “Chaparro,” age 43, resident of Aurora, Colorado, from Mexico ARRESTED THURSDAY IN AURORA