Aspen man pleads guilty in drug case |

Aspen man pleads guilty in drug case

Wyatt Haupt Jr.
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Ryan Welgos of Aspen, Colorado pleaded guilty Friday to a felony for his role in a heroin distribution case that stemmed from the overdose death of a visitor last year.

Welgos, 31, entered his plea in Garfield County District Court at a morning hearing. He pleaded guilty to attempted distribution of a schedule I controlled substance. District Court Judge Daniel B. Petre accepted the plea, and set an April 10 sentencing date.

“I am guilty, your honor,” Welgos told the judge when asked why he entered the plea.

Welgos faces two to six years in prison. The judge can also sentence Welgos to probation, drug court or a combination of the options, said special prosecutor Anne Francis, who was assigned to the case from the 5th Judicial District.

In exchange for the plea, the prosecution will drop nine other felony counts that Welgos faced. Those counts ranged from conspiracy to distribute a schedule I controlled substance to possession of more than one gram of a schedule I controlled substance.

Defense attorney Joseph Saint-Veltri also requested and received permission from the judge to have Welgos continue with drug court. Saint-Veltri made his first court appearance on behalf of Welgos since he took over the case earlier this month. He replaced Chip McCrory of Carbondale at the request of Welgos, court documents showed.

Welgos is being held on bond in the Garfield County jail.

The plea was similar to an agreement brokered in November between the prosecution and defense, with the main difference being the exclusion of a sentencing stipulation that called for Welgos to receive a suspended prison term.

The Friday hearing was originally set to address a change of venue motion filed by the prosecution. The motion sought to transfer the case to Summit County from Garfield County. However, Francis withdrew the motion given the circumstances.

Welgos has been in jail since he was arrested June 19, with Nelson Gamez-Barriento in Silverthorne. Their arrests came on the heels of a three-month-long investigation headed by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The investigation stemmed from the March overdose death of Adam Ryan Peterson, who was visiting Aspen at the time of his death.

The case against Gamez-Barriento was transferred in December to Summit County. He is to appear in Summit County Court next month. A plea agreement is also in the works in that case.

The proposal calls for Gamez-Barriento to plead guilty to two felony counts, including distribution of a controlled substance schedule I. A recommended prison sentence has yet to be disclosed by the District Attorney’s Office. But the felony counts carry a potential penalty of more than 30 years in prison should he be convicted.

Gamez-Barriento is also known as Nelson Raul Gamez-Barriento.

Gregory Elston, a third suspect in the case, was given a two-year deferred sentence and two years of supervised probation for possession of a schedule II substance. It was part of a plea agreement he reached in October.

In exchange, prosecutors dropped a heroin distribution charge against Elston, an Aspen resident.

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