Nine indicted in Vail drug bust | VailDaily.com

Nine indicted in Vail drug bust

VAIL — The investigation into Vail's biggest drug bust in years started the way most do — with word on the street. On Monday, a grand jury handed down nine indictments stemming from the June 27 arrests of eight people. The nine suspects face felony drug and weapons charges.

The arrests and subsequent searches of homes and vehicles resulted in the seizure of more than 700 doses of LSD, along with other drugs including cocaine, heroin and MDMA, or ecstasy. Police also recovered two handguns, one of which federal officials confirm was stolen in the burglary of a sporting goods store in Kansas. Three vehicles were also seized. The arrests were made at residences on Garmisch Drive and at the Timber Ridge Apartments. In addition, the Vail Underground, a bar on Bridge Street in Vail Village, has been shut down by the Colorado Department of Revenue's Liquor and Tobacco Enforcement Division.

District Attorney Bruce Brown said all the suspects have posted bail and are due in District Court in Eagle on July 23.

UNDERCOVER OFFICER

Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger said the investigation began last winter. Police had heard reports of numerous drug transactions in town. Some of those alleged deals were being conducted at local businesses, including, police say, Vail Underground. The talk was convincing enough to launch an investigation.

As it happened, the department had recently hired a new officer, and that person — who Henninger called an experienced officer — was immediately put to work undercover. A new officer wouldn't be known to people around town, Henninger said.

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In addition to the undercover officer's work, Henninger said other patrol officers gathered information. Soon after, Henninger assigned the case to the undercover officer and a department detective with experience in the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team regional task force.

Brown said having an undercover officer involved was an important part of the investigation. But, he added, not much undercover investigation is done in this judicial district, which includes Eagle, Summit, Lake and Clear Creek counties, mainly because police officers tend to be known by people in the communities where those officers work.

"It really takes an element or surprise or lack of identification to conduct an undercover investigation," Brown said. "Drug deals don't usually happen in plain sight."

'WE KNEW THIS WAS BIG'

As the investigation continued, police began to believe that the case could be an important one.

"We knew this was big when (investigators) found that the people selling drugs were going elsewhere to get their supplies," Henninger said. "That told us we were dealing with top-layer people."

As the investigation continued, the District Attorney's Office became involved in the case.

After the arrests were made, Brown took the case to a grand jury based in Summit County. That grand jury has the power to appoint investigators and direct those investigations. Brown said that group of district residents is called to hear cases from around the district and has handed down several indictments in cases from all four counties.

Brown said taking the suspects' cases to the grand jury was an important step in further investigating alleged conspiracies between the suspects.

Conspiracy cases are good ones to bring to grand juries, Brown said, since those cases require broad investigation to confirm the links between suspects. Taking conspiracy cases to a grand jury can also provide an indication of what a trial jury might do in a particular case, Brown said.

Henninger said this is the biggest drug case his department has worked on in the years he's been in Vail. Most drug arrests in town are of individuals, either for possession or possession with intent to sell. Many of those arrests are made before or after concerts and similar events.

Both Henninger and Brown said their departments are involved with treatment and rehabilitation in as many cases as possible. But, Brown said, enforcement is part of that equation.

"We need to send a clear message about what's all right and what isn't," Henninger said. And, he added, the June 27 arrests didn't involve marijuana but more dangerous drugs including cocaine and heroin.

And, Henninger said, several business owners and residents seem to agree with the message sent by the June 27 arrests.

"We've received a lot of communication from the public thanking us for this," Henninger said. "We've heard from people who run bars and neighbors (of the suspects). We don't hear that a lot in our work."

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.

Who was charged?

• William Claborn Mitchell, 23, of Vail.

• Mark Anthony Smith, 24, of Avon.

• Joshua Mingook Tubbs, 26, of Vail.

• Calen Stephen Golas, 25, of Vail.

• Pele Robert Nesta Plummer, 24, of Eagle-Vail.

• Paul Ryan Fenick, 24, of Avon.

• Christiaan Jakobus De Jager, 34, of Vail

• Henry Aaron Mills, 22, of Vail.

• Nico Joseph Rogozinski, 24.

Source: Vail Police Department