Nearly two dozen individuals are facing charges in an alleged marijuana distribution scheme that spanned multiple Colorado counties and had ties to Florida.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation along with the 11th Judicial District announced Thursday that 23 arrest warrants were issued over the alleged plot to manufacture, process and distribute marijuana across El Paso, Pueblo and Fremont counties.

Officials said the investigation began at one of the suspect properties in Fremont County, where a shootout erupted that was allegedly related to the robbery at the manufacturing site between members of the drug trafficking organization. According to the announcement, a 57-year-old woman and her 18-month-old child were struck by stray gunfire during the incident. 

“The female survived her injuries, and thankfully the toddler was not harmed,” the release reads. 

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Thirty-two-year-old Onel Martinez, his wife, 41-year-old Martha Romero, and 48-year-old Mario Hernandez were the alleged “ringleaders” of the drug trafficking organization. At the time of the alleged crimes, Martinez and Romero were employees of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, and Hernandez was a federal employee of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The three have been located and are in police custody, CBI states in the news release.

According to the release, the group allegedly recruited members for the organization in Colorado and Florida to operate the illegal marijuana manufacturing, processing and distributing operations throughout the three counties. 

A joint investigation by the CBI and law enforcement in Colorado and Florida led to nine arrests after the 23 warrants were served.

The CBI said authorities seized “1,150 illicit marijuana plants, approximately 869 pounds of marijuana product, some packaged for distribution, 13 firearms — some stolen, approximately 3.23 grams of methamphetamine, the recovery of stolen heavy equipment, and the recovery of stolen vehicles, stolen trailers, and a stolen UTV.”

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The 23 individuals are believed to have engaged in the marijuana manufacturing operation to then distribute the product out of state, “bypassing enacted regulations and tax requirements,” according to release.

CBI said the 23 suspects are facing numerous felony charges consisting of a pattern of racketeering, conspiracy, possession of marijuana concentrate, marijuana cultivation, filing false tax returns and tax evasion. 

“The number of indictments achieved as a result of this investigation demonstrates how expansive this organization was,” said David Olesky, acting special agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration Rocky Mountain Field Division.  

According to the Thursday release, law enforcement is actively working to find the remaining 14 suspects.

Along with Hernandez, Martinez, and Romero, Fernando Herrera, Ricardo Licourt, Ariel Rizo, Yanaisa Guevara, Yunier Chavez and Juan Reyes have also been found and are in custody. 

This is a developing story. This article will be updated once more information is received. 

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“}]] Arrest warrants for nearly two dozen individuals have been issued in part of a multi-jurisdictional scheme to manufacture, process, and distribute marijuana across three Southern Colorado counties, the Colorado Bureau  Read More