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9 indicted after being accused of illegal marijuana operation in 3 Colorado counties

Nine people were arrested and a grand jury named 23 total suspects accused of illicit marijuana manufacturing and distribution operations that spanned multiple properties in Fremont County, El Paso County, and Pueblo County.

The 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office announced the indictments on Thursday. A joint investigation between the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Rocky Mountain Division, the City of Miami Police Department, and various other federal and government agencies led to the arrest warrants for the 23 suspects, with several being arrested, according to the DA’s office.

A search warrant was issued for the properties involved in the operation, leading to the discovery and seizure of 1,150 illicit marijuana plants, approximately 869 pounds of marijuana product, some packaged for distribution, 13 firearms (some reported stolen), and approximately 3.23 grams of methamphetamine. Authorities also recovered stolen heavy equipment, vehicles, trailers, and a UTV.

According to the DA’s office, the investigation began after a violent shootout occurred at one of the properties in Fremont County, where a 57-year-old woman was hit by gunfire while holding an 18-month-old child. The toddler was reportedly unharmed, and the woman survived her injuries in the incident.

The investigation alleges that the shooting was related to the “robbery of a marijuana-manufacturing site by members of the organization.”


Onel Vicente Martinez, 32, his wife, Martha Vicente Romero, 41, a federal employee of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons at the time of the alleged crimes, and Mario Armando Leyva Hernandez, 48, a federal employee of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, were the alleged ringleaders of a racketeering and drug trafficking organization, according to the DA’s office.

“These indictments wouldn’t be possible without the extensive coordination and collaboration with our public safety partners in Colorado and across state lines to address these far-reaching operations,” said CBI Director Chris Schaefer. “While Colorado has legalized marijuana, it is not legal for illicit marijuana operators to cultivate marijuana without a license with the intent of exporting it to states where the drug remains illegal and lucrative for criminals.”

The indictment alleges that the ringleaders recruited members for their organization from Florida and other areas to operate at the properties located in Fremont, Pueblo, and El Paso counties.

“We appreciate the substantial time and effort that law enforcement dedicated to this investigation that ultimately led to this indictment,” said 11th Judicial District Attorney Linda Stanley. “The downfall of this criminal organization is the result of a collaborative effort between our office and law enforcement that occurred throughout the investigation and continues today. The message is clear that citizens of the 11th Judicial District and our office will not tolerate this kind of criminal activity where we live and work.”

So far, nine suspects have been taken into custody out of the 23 individuals named in the indictment.

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