AUG 28 — Denver – Jeffrey D. Sweetin, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Denver Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Gill Quintana, SAC of the United States Forest Service, and Scott Storey, Jefferson County District Attorney, announced today the seizure of approximately 14,500 live marijuana plants and the arrests of two suspects that occurred on Friday, August 21, 2009, in the Pike National Forest, Jefferson County, Colorado. This seizure is believed to be the largest outdoor marijuana growing operation ever detected by law enforcement in Colorado.

The marijuana was being grown in the remote, rugged terrain of the Pike National Forest near Deckers, Colorado. As agents advanced on the grow site, an estimated seven to ten individuals were seen running from the area. Their sleeping bags and food items were recovered at the site. Information developed during the investigation determined that Mexican migrant workers had been recruited from outside the state of Colorado to harvest the marijuana plants, which were found to be between four to six feet tall.

“The persons who were involved in this criminal activity had no regard for the damage caused to the forest and environment by the waste they left behind,” said SAC Sweetin. “The public’s safety is also at risk for those who recreate on our public lands due to these trafficking groups operating there.”

“These drug trafficking organizations are operating, and are a significant problem, on our National lands nation wide.  We are seeing this illegal activity from the west coast to the east coast. We are now beginning to see these organizations migrate to our National lands in Colorado and we believe it is because of the law enforcement pressure they are experiencing elsewhere.  The impacts are numerous – resource damage to the lands due to clearing the areas to prepare the garden site, trash left behind, chemicals used to grow the crop can seep into the watershed, and the public safety issues associated with recreating public coming in contact with these organization while they operating on our National lands.  I want to thank all the agencies involved in this eradication operation, we could not have done this without them,” said SAC Quintana.

According to Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey, “The nature of this operation and the quantities involved are consistent with a criminal enterprise, and not with the recreational use of marijuana. We are committed to the prosecution of those involved.”

Once agents cut down the plants, Black Hawk helicopters provided by the Colorado National Guard Counter Drug Task Force were used to transport the plants to a landing site, where they were loaded onto vehicles for transport to a location where they were destroyed.

Two suspects associated with the marijuana grow location have been identified. One of the suspects was contacted Friday at his residence in Aurora, Colorado. The second suspect was contacted Sunday while walking on Highway 126 near Deckers, wearing camouflage clothing. Their identities are not being released at this time.

Agencies participating in this investigation include the DEA Front Range Task Force, which is comprised of personnel from DEA, Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Denver Police Department and the Aurora Police Department. Also participating in the investigation were the US Forest Service, West Metro Drug Task Force, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, Colorado National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, Washington County Sheriff’s Department, Logan County Sheriff’s Department, and the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department.

This case was referred to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office for the filing of charges.

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