Federal, state and local authorities seized $11 million in cash and property and 5,000 pounds of cocaine after a massive bust in Colorado Springs. They also made 60 arrests.
It's all the result of an investigation dubbed “Operation Choque” that began back in 2002.
It started as small investigation into a ranch near Peyton in eastern El Paso County. Authorities suspected it was being used to store and then transfer large amounts of cocaine. By the time the investigation was over, law enforcement realized they were dealing with an international drug cartel.
Three men were the heads of a Mexican drug ring, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. DEA agents say they smuggled thousands of pounds of drugs from Mexico and dealt with millions of dollars in dirty cash. "We feel real good about the success of this operation," says El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.
From the ranch near Peyton, the drugs made their way to other parts of the state and to the East Coast. "It started out as a small case, but it started to explode and grow to the tremendous dollar amounts that you heard about," says Maketa.
Investigators say the suspects always kept a low profile. “It’s an ideal location to be by themselves and not bother anyone and it would still accommodate the types of shipments that were coming in,” says Maketa.
All of the agencies involved say it's satisfying to take down an international drug ring that was operating right here in El Paso County. "It's a relief and I think the reward is really for the guys that have given a hundred percent over a year and a half’s time on this investigation," says Maketa.
The DEA is still looking for one of the Mexican kingpins. Agents believe Oscar Arriola-Marquez is hiding somewhere in Mexico.