County Drug Task Force
Lieutenant Jim Broderick, Commander of the Larimer County Drug Task Force, announced the conclusion of a year-long joint investigation which dismantled a significant drug distribution organization operating in Fort Collins, Loveland, and unincorporated Larimer County, Colorado. Joining Lieutenant Broderick in this announcement were representatives from the U.S. Attorneys Office, Larimer County District Attorneys Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).
The investigation, dubbed Americas Town -- referring to the cities of Fort Collins, Loveland, and unincorporated Larimer County -- resulted in the arrest of 49 defendants (five arrests still pending) and the dismantling of the Benjamin Escobar-Ortega drug trafficking organization at all levels, from importation to retail drug distribution. Six defendants were charged federally, with the remaining defendants facing charges locally. Some of the arrested defendants have prior drug and/or violent crime arrests.
Although not initially targeted, other significant distributors and suppliers of cocaine and methamphetamine were uncovered, which led to the identification, arrest, and charging of additional defendants. Connections and sources of supply were identified in Longmont, Colorado; the state of Nebraska; and Phoenix, Arizona. Many of these suspects were arrested or are now the subjects of ongoing investigations.
The investigation was initiated in August 2000 by the DEA agent assigned to the Task Force, and Task Force detectives who began targeting a known cocaine and methamphetamine trafficker, Benjamin Roberto Escobar-Ortega. Over the next seven months, other seemingly unrelated Task Force investigations began to reveal that this organization was a significant source of supply for the area. In March 2001 a federal wire tap was authorized, which detailed the scope of drug trafficking involving this organization.
From March 26, 2001, through April 17, 2001, over 2,200 phone conversations were intercepted, of which 1,647 pertained to the sale and distribution of drugs. During this 23-day period, investigators overheard pertinent conversations concerning drug transactions that totaled 2.5 kilos of methamphetamine, over 1.5 kilos of cocaine, and 5.5 pounds of marijuana. With the interception of over 1,000 incriminating phone calls, this investigation provided a window into the drug trade and the extent of negative impact in has on a community.
On April 17, 2001, investigators learned that Benjamin Roberto Escobar-Ortega had returned to the Fort Collins area after smuggling methamphetamine and cocaine from Phoenix, Arizona. Escobar-Ortega and Juan Ramon Ramos-Avila were arrested on April 17, 2001, outside a motel at Johnsons Corner by Task force detectives. On April 18, 2001, the cocaine and methamphetamine imported into Colorado by Escobar-Ortega was recovered from a vehicle in Longmont, Colorado. More than 1/2 kilo of cocaine and a pound of methamphetamine were recovered. Subsequent to the arrests of the primary target and his associates, nine search warrants were executed in various locations in Fort Collins, Longmont, and Larimer County, resulting in the arrest of seven individuals for immigration violations and the recovery of additional drugs and weapons, including a sawed-off shotgun, .22 caliber handgun, a stolen .357 caliber handgun, .32 caliber handgun, and a Tech 9 semi-automatic machine pistol.
Lieutenant Broderick acknowledged the close working relationship the Task Force with federal law enforcement and prosecutors, and praised the great lengths investigators went to in order to identify and arrest as many suspects as possible throughout all tiers of the Benjamin Escobar-Ortega drug distribution network. A deliberate effort was made to reach down and disrupt all levels of the organization, including street level sales, in order to have the greatest impact on the community drug problem as possible.
The Larimer County Drug Force is a multi-jurisdictional drug task force staffed by personnel from Fort Collins Police Services, Larimer County Sheriffs Office, Loveland Police Department, Colorado State University Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Colorado National Guard. Other agencies assisting in this investigation included the Longmont Police Department and the Weld County Drug Task Force. For additional information on the investigation, contact Lt. Jim Broderick, LCDTF, at (970) 593-0451.