Busy drug-bust week at border, cops say
Vail, CO Colorado
GRAND JUNCTION ” A federal agent Thursday compared a week-long string of drug arrests near Grand Junction on Interstate 70 to fishing.
They’re biting, he said.
“When you’re having success in one area, you’re probably going to stay until you don’t catch anymore fish,” said Mike Turner, special agent with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
In three arrests since Feb. 8 just east of the Utah-Colorado border on I-70, state and local authorities have hauled in nearly $1 million worth of drugs, according to law enforcement estimates.
The most recent bust happened just after midnight Wednesday, according to the DEA. Four pounds of heroin, which were packed in three bundles inside a spare tire, were found when a Colorado state trooper pulled over an SUV on a routine traffic stop, Turner said.
The driver, Luis Fernando Ornelas-Trevino, 36, was expected to be charged in federal court in Denver Friday, while the passenger, Jorge Gonzalez-Esqueda, 37, was booked into the Mesa County Jail on a federal immigration violation charge.
Turner said both men produced identification indicating they were from Mexico, although both men’s identities had not been completely confirmed.
“I think this latest one is just a product of this trooper paying attention to what to look for,” Turner said. “This was not part of some ongoing investigation.”
Authorities believe the heroin, with an estimated street value of $100,000, was bound for Denver.
The arrests followed two large seizures of marijuana.
On Monday, 569 pounds of marijuana, packaged in 24 bales, were allegedy found in a pickup truck stopped by a state trooper around mile marker nine. Arnoldo Escalante-Gutierrez, 36, was driving from Arizona to the Denver area, according to the state patrol.
That followed the Feb. 8 arrest of Rayjinder Saini, 26, the driver of a tractor trailer stopped for inspection at Loma’s eastbound port of entry on I-70 ” 153 pounds of marijuana were allegedly found inside.
Turner says the recent arrests weren’t part of any coordinated effort by law enforcement, “although we work with state and local authorities all the time.”
“It seems to happen in waves and there’s a lull,” he said. “And obviously I-70 and I-25 are major routes for drugs coming out of the southwest.”
Still, the Grand Valley’s had a notable week.
“That’s a lot for such a short period,” he said.