Arturo Valenzuela Among 16 Charged in Drug Ring, Half-Pound of Coke Seized

The legalization of limited recreational marijuana sales hasn't prevented police from staging cannabis-related raids — note the Pueblo County Sheriff's war on allegedly illegal pot grows, which has resulted in the confiscation of at least 5,900 marijuana plans and 35 arrests in 25 homes since mid-March.

But police agencies appear to be focusing an increasing amount of their resources on drug rings dealing with other substances.

Note the recent breakup by the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office and other law-enforcement groups of a drug-trafficking operation with alleged links to a Mexican cartel — the conclusion of a months-long investigation that led to multiple seizures of methamphetamine, plus cocaine and heroin.

That was followed by a Denver grand jury's indictment of Edgar Barroso and sixteen others in what's been described as a violent meth ring that is said to have engaged in kidnapping, sexual assault and more.

The latest? The 17th Judicial District DA's office has formally charged sixteen people in what it calls "a cocaine distribution organization operating in Denver."

Also allegedly being trafficked: prescription drugs.

Four defendants have been accused of racketeering and operating a criminal enterprise under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act (COCCA). They include Arturo Valenzuela, seen at the top of this post and in the following Facebook photo.... well as Carol Nieto, pictured here....

...and here.... Cynthia Orozco.

A fourth defendant also charged under the COCCA statute is not being named at this time and is listed as "at large" — one of two people to be so designated.

Fourteen others are in custody, including Orozco, who's been charged with one count of COCCA racketeering, one count of COCCA conspiracy, three counts of conspiracy to distribute, and nineteen counts of controlled-substance distribution.

Nieto, for his part, faces one charge apiece of COCCA racketeering and conspiracy, plus four charges of distribution or conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. And Valenzuela is looking at one count apiece of COCCA racketeering and conspiracy and fourteen counts of distribution or conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.

Right now, Orozco and Valenzuela are being held on $250,000 bond, while Nieto's bond amount is $25,000.

The DA's office says the operation was being run out of homes in Thornton, Commerce City, Lakewood and Arvada, with the criminal charges focusing on the time period between September 2015, when the investigation began, and this month. Among the items seized: more than a half-pound of cocaine, plus $30,000 in cash, "large amounts" of unspecified prescription drugs, and assorted weapons.

One word not mentioned: marijuana.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts