A Colombian national has been arrested during federal raids on medical marijuana (MMJ) growers in Colorado, The Denver Post reported Monday. Sources close to the investigation told the daily newspaper that they suspect a connection between the targets of their investigation in Colorado and drug trafficking organizations in Colombia.
Colombian national Hector Diaz, 49, was arrested and charged with “a single count of possessing a firearm after having been admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa.” The Post published a photo of the suspect holding two assault rifles and donning a Drug Enforcement Administration ball cap.
A $1.3 million home in the affluent Denver neighborhood of Cherry Hills was one target of the raids, that reportedly saw “approximately 15” warrants served on businesses and residences throughout Colorado. A document seen by the Denver Post reports that agents seized five assault rifles, five handguns, a shotgun and large ammunition cache. The document did not clarify if Diaz was the suspect that agents found armed inside the house during the raid.
Diaz was also not listed on a federal search warrant for the MMJ raids. One man listed in the warrant, Juan Guardarrama, plead guilty in February to organizing jewelry thefts in Miami, utilizing mostly Colombian and Cuban thieves.
The other nine men listed on the warrant are Laszlo Bagi, Gerardo Uribe-Christancho, Luis F. Uribe, David Furtado, Carlos Solano Bocanegro, Jared Bringhurst, Felix Perez, Juan Frank Esmeral and Joseph Tavares. None of these men have reportedly been charged with any crimes in connection with the investigation.
Gerardo Uribe-Christancho told 9News, “You would be stupid to get into this business and be part of a cartel. I mean, camera, camera, camera, camera, IRS. We wouldn’t get into this business and be part of a cartel. That would be a stupid decision.”
The case is currently sealed and the extent to which Colombian drug cartels could be involved in the legal medical marijuana industry in Colorado is still unclear. If a connection is in fact made, it would be significant. Drug cartels have long laundered their money through legal industries but, depending on the findings, this could be an attempt by cartels to maintain influence on a black market industry that has recently gone mainstream with legalization in Washington state and Colorado, and decriminalization laws for possession in over 12 states.
- Feds Arrest One, Seize Guns and Ammo in Colorado Marijuana Raids (Denver Post)
- Feds Raids on Colorado Marijuana Businesses Seek Ties to Colombian Drug Cartels (Denver Post)
- Copy of search warrant (Scribd.com)
- ‘Tony Montana’ Pleads Guilty to Millions In Jewel Thefts (Miami Herald)
- Denver Marijuana Dispensary Owners Deny Alleged Ties To Colombian Drug Cartels (9News)