PoliZette

Colorado Heroin Ring Arrests Highlight Illegals’ Role in U.S. Crime

'Highly organized' criminal enterprise sold huge quantities of deadly drugs — most of these men had been deported previously

Six people — most of whom had been deported previously — have been charged with participating in a heroin ring in Colorado.

Jefferson County District Attorney Pete Weir announced the 61-count indictment on Thursday. Investigators seized or made undercover buys of 3,305 grams of heroin with a street value of $264,400. The district attorney’s office described a “highly organized” criminal enterprise in which members received shipments of heroin from out of state.

Fred Elbel, co-director of the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform, told LifeZette the bust highlights the need for a tougher approach to illegal immigration.

“It should come as no surprise that individuals apprehended in the heroin ring are predominantly illegal aliens,” Elbel said. “A reasonable response at this time would be to secure America’s border and to implement mandatory E-Verify so that illegal aliens will not be able to displace American workers.”

The drug ring stored the heroin in one or more “stash houses,” according to authorities. The indictment alleges that customers would call a “dispatcher,” who then would arrange a delivery. A “runner” would meet the buyer and exchange the drugs for cash.

According to the indictment, Fermin Flores-Rosales, 41, collected the money and on occasion wired it outside of the country. Often, according to investigators, the wire transfers were in amounts of less than $1,000 because Flores-Rosales did not have the necessary identification to send larger amounts.

The indictment accuses Flores-Rosales of communicating by phone in November with a contact in Mexico about arranging wire transfers. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) representative did not respond to an inquiry from LifeZette, but ICE confirmed to Fox News that he had been deported multiple times.

“This indictment and the dismantling of this heroin ring goes a long way toward stopping the flow of heroin into our community,” Weir said in a statement. “This is a great example of teamwork between local and federal law enforcement agencies in Colorado.”

Immigration advocates often argue that cases like the heroin bust are outliers, that illegal immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than Americans.

“We don’t even know what the statistics are in sanctuary cities because we don’t have data,” he said. “We don’t know what we don’t know.”

Michael Cutler, a former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) agent who served for a decade on an interagency drug task force, said there is no reliable way to determine that because the government does not keep track of it and some states and municipalities actively obscure the residency status of people in jails.

“We don’t even know what the statistics are in sanctuary cities because we don’t have data,” he said. “We don’t know what we don’t know.”

Cutler said he worked for a Drug Enforcement intelligence unit in the late 1980s and tried to estimate noncitizen crime by poring through arrest reports. He said those reports did not list information about citizenship status but did note country of birth.

Cutler said he had no spreadsheets or computer files, just a hand-held calculator and boxes of reports.

“It took about a week, and I went to work one day and I couldn’t find my desk,” he said, as clerks continued to bring more boxes into his office.

Cutler said he calculated that foreign-born criminals accounted for 60 percent of the drug cases in New York at the time, and about third of those committed nationally.

President Donald Trump’s administration, which last month released data showing that about 20 percent of federal inmates were born in foreign countries, has committed to trying to build a national database of the immigration status of people incarcerated at the federal, state and local levels.

Related: Noncitizens Make Up One in Five Federal Prisoners, Report Shows

For too long, Cutler said, the federal government has not wanted to know the answers. He said that after a while, his superiors instructed him to stop compiling and tracking the data.

“This is willful ignorance, and suddenly, we have a president who wants to know the statistics,” he said.

The other suspects arrested in the Denver case are:

  • Mario Acosta-Ruiz, 20, who is an illegal immigrant
  • Cristobal Flores-Rosales, 47, who has been deported multiple times
  • Yoel Soto-Campos, 21, who has been deported multiple times
  • Juan Borques Meza, 24
  • Joel Torrez-Espinoza, 25, who has been deported multiple times and was convicted in Utah in 2012 of possession with intent to distribute cocaine

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

(photo credit, homepage image by JeffCo District Atty.)

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PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected].