Meth suspects, like every other arrestee in these United States, is innocent until proven guilty, and that's the way it should be. But most of us have noticed that in booking photos, those accused of such crimes tend to look, well, rough.
That's certainly the case for the fourteen people fitted with cuffs in relation to an alleged southwestern Colorado meth ring -- an operation allegedly run by Bayfield's Joseph Fitapelli, aka "Italian Joe." Authorities say they've confiscated ten pounds of meth, around $10,000 in cash and more.
According to the Durango Herald, the investigation, overseen by the Southwest Drug Task Force, has been underway for months -- and it's not over. Additional arrests are possible not just in these parts, but in other states. Connections are said to reach as far as Nevada, California and drug cartels in Mexico.
The majority of those busted to date are from Colorado. In addition to Fitapelli, 55, local products include Danielle Burton, 38; Pamela Chandler, fifty; Ronnie Gunkel, 41; Milton Korthank, 38; Derrik Martinez, 28; Aaron McMinn, 41; Travis Shield, 49; and Peyton St. Germain, 21. They're joined in custody by a quartet from Las Vegas -- Jose Garcia-Ochoa, 19; Daniel Gastelo-Ochoa, 24; Cristain Lopez, 22; and Miguel Miranda-Sanchez, 23. And 58-year-old Loyd Groomer lives in Farmington, New Mexico.
Fitapelli is said to be at the center of the ring, and he was apparently well paid for his efforts. During a traffic stop, cops reportedly found as much as $10,000 in cash on his person.
This discovery appears to have caused him understandable distress. The Herald notes that Fitapelli suffered a "health crisis" that required treatment in Denver.
Additionally, a traffic stop in Las Vegas resulted in four pounds worth of meth being discovered, 9News reports.
Officials estimate that the ring generated around $450,000 in revenue, and by shutting it down, La Plata County Sheriff Duke Schirard believes authorities put "a pretty good hit on the meth trade," he tells the Herald. "This operation will slow up business in the area."
But it won't stop it. The Herald notes the likelihood that "new dealers will step up to fill the void.... Meanwhile, meth users hard up for a hit will buy over-the-counter drugs such as Sudafed, iodine from feed stores and pounds of matches from which they will strip the phosphorus to concoct their own meth at home."
Continue to see mug shots of those taken into custody thus far.
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Continue to see more of the fourteen people arrested in relation to an alleged southwestern Colorado meth ring. Continue to see more of the fourteen people arrested in relation to an alleged southwestern Colorado meth ring. Continue to see more of the fourteen people arrested in relation to an alleged southwestern Colorado meth ring. Continue to see more of the fourteen people arrested in relation to an alleged southwestern Colorado meth ring.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Colorado Crimes archive circa August 2013: "Meth ring roundup: See photos of those busted in Operation Bad Nickname."