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Heroin trafficking suspects are in U.S. illegally

Immigration status won’t keep criminal case from going forward

Posted

The immigration status of six men accused of operating a heroin trafficking ring in portions of Jefferson, Denver and Adams counties will not affect local court proceedings.

“Our case is going to go forward,” said Pam Russell, the district attorney’s spokeswoman in the First Judicial District. “It’s not a major factor in Jeffco’s investigation.”

A grand jury returned a 61-count indictment on Dec. 22 accusing the six men of felony charges that include violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, conspiracy to distribute a Schedule 1 controlled substance, money laundering and other charges according to the individuals’ alleged participation. The six accused men are identified by the indictment as Fermin Flores-Rosales, 41; Mario Acosta-Ruiz, 30; Cristobal Flores-Rosales, 47; Yoel Soto-Campos, 21; Juan Borques Meza, 24; and Joel Torrez-Espinoza, 25.

Five of the men were arrested on Dec. 5.

Torrez-Espinosa has an outstanding warrant for his arrest. According to a statement from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Torrez-Espinosa was convicted in 2012 in Utah for felony possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

In Jefferson County, Fermin Flores-Rosales is being held on a $250,000 cash-only bond. The others are being held on a $100,000 cash-only bond. All are expected in court to argue bond on Feb. 12.

According to the indictment, the structure of the trafficking ring was highly organized. According to allegations in the indictment: Members received shipments of heroin from outside Colorado and the drug was stored in “stash houses.” Prospective heroin customers would make a phone call to someone acting as “dispatcher” who would provide information as to where and when the drugs would be delivered. A “runner” would meet the prospective buyer with the drugs at the agreed-upon location.

Search warrants took place in four “stash houses,” located in the 5500 block of Salem Street, the 2800 block of Columbine Street and the 800 block of Zenobia Street, which are all in Denver; and the 11800 block of York Street in Thornton. During these searches, $6,700 and 3,215 grams of heroin was seized.

In total, investigators working on the case report seizing or making undercover purchases of 3,305 grams of heroin with a street value of $264,400.

Immigration status

According to a statement issued by ICE, all the men except Meza are from Mexico and are illegally present in the U.S. Each has one or more aliases.

The agency did not release information on Meza’s immigration status.

However, a court hearing in the First Judicial District is pending to determine his age. According to his legal representation at a Jan. 16 court appearance, his relatives in Mexico provided a copy of a birth certificate that said his real name is Cesar Soto Velasquez and that he is a juvenile. He will remain in the Jefferson County jail until the hearing.

ICE has lodged a detainer on Fermin Flores-Rosales, Acosta-Ruiz, Cristobal Flores-Rosales, Soto-Campos and Torrez-Espinoza. ICE can place a detainer on an alien who has been arrested on local criminal charges, when ICE has probable cause to believe they are deportable from the U.S. The detainer requests that the local law enforcement agency notify ICE before releasing an alien, and maintain custody of the person for up to 48 hours so ICE can assume custody for deportation purposes.

Inmates housed in the Jeffco jail are under the sheriff’s jurisdiction while detained, said Jenny Fulton, spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. But the Jeffco jail routinely shares arrest information and release notification for potential immigration violators with ICE, she said. The sheriff’s office will hold someone if ICE has made a hold request that has been judicially reviewed and signed by a judge, Fulton added.

According to ICE, Fermin Flores-Rosales, Soto-Campos and Torrez-Espinoza have been previously deported multiple times and Cristobal Flores-Rosales has also been deported previously.

Depending on a person’s criminality, someone who re-enters the U.S. illegally after he or she has already been previously deported commits a felony that is punishable for up to 20 years in federal prison, if convicted, according to the ICE website.

In Jefferson County, a law enforcement officer would need to establish probable cause or reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior, other than that the individual might be in the country illegally, to make an arrest, Fulton said.

“When we contact an individual for probable cause that a crime was committed, or a law was violated, such as a traffic stop for a headlight out or something along those lines, we run the person’s name through databases,” she said. “If there is an authorized federal warrant for illegal immigration, we would arrest them on that warrant.”

However, the person can also be arrested on additional charges, she added. But that is true only if it is determined that a crime was committed, based on the initial reason — probable cause or reasonable suspicion — for contact.

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