Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced yesterday that numerous law enforncement agencies had coordinated to swoop in and seize over 55 pounds of methamphetamine, netting 17 indictments in the process. Of those, Maria Arellano is accused of selling meth out of her taco trailer, El Paisa Mexican Food, from a parking lot at Eighth Avenue and Federal Boulevard. Although she was just a minor player in the operation (kingpin honors go to Juan Carlos Gonzalez, leader of the aptly named Gonzalez Drug Trafficking Organization), Arellano and her taco truck drew particular ire from the Attorney General, who noted: "The brazenness of this ring was astounding. For example, customers could literally walk up to a food truck and order a side of meth with their taco."
While it saddens me that Federal Boulevard continues to make news for nefarious activities, it's heartening to know that dangerous criminals are off the streets (for now) and that an enormous quantity of meth -- one of the biggest hauls ever for a single bust in the state -- has been removed from circulation. This case was much bigger than a tiny lonchera, though; of those indicted, some were involved in delivering drugs from Mexico to California and then on to Colorado, while others were indicted on charges of conspiracy, money laundering and tax evasion. Even aunts of the ringleader, Monica Gonzalez and Luz Gonzalez, were involved in distribution. The Adams County District Attorney's Office and the Thornton Police Department were partners in the seizure, indicating that the trafficking ring extended beyond Denver's borders.
As a lover of both justice and tacos, I worried that the bust of one mobile taqueria would ripple through the Federal Boulevard restaurant community. After all, Tacos el Paisajust opened in June a few blocks north; I hoped that there was no connection with the offending El Paisa Mexican Food. A call to the restaurant confirmed that it is a solo operation, with no other brick-and-mortar or mobile kitchens. Or meth labs.
Just to be sure, I stopped by for a to-go plate of tacos de birria. It's a good deal, at $8 for five tacos stuffed with juicy shredded lamb, and it did not come with a side of any illegal substances, just two excellent salsas -- a fiery ranchero and a milder verde.
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"El Paisa," as it turns out, is a common phrase at Mexican restaurants; it's simply a more casual word for "paisano" -- a countryman or person from the same region (generally rural) as the speaker.