Federal and local law enforcement on Thursday announced the removal of a black market marijuana scheme and money laundering in Colorado – an operation involving 21 individuals growing illegal pots worth millions of dollars across the Denver subway and donating profits to back to China through social media apps.
Drug investigators seized thousands of plants, hundreds of pounds of packaged marijuana and roughly $ 1 million during the investigation that began in August 2020, authorities told a news conference at the 18th Century Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
“I want to point out that while this is a micro-cell in our state of Colorado… we believe this is happening at a macro level across the United States,” said John Kellner, the district attorney for Arapahoe and Douglas counties.
The charges against the 21 suspects range from fraud and conspiracy under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act to drug cultivation and distribution to money laundering.
Kellner described the investigation as a “money laundering case with a marijuana side”.
The money, obtained from illegal Colorado marijuana, would circulate from the U.S. to China to Central and South America and, ultimately, back to American soil.
“It simply created the whole narcotics cycle – within organizations, cartels and money laundering organizations – and that’s how money moves around the world,” said Steve Cagen, special agent in charge of National Security Investigations. “Many times without actually moving the dollar.”
Over the past five years, the DEA has discovered that Chinese money laundering organizations had become the mechanism used by drug trafficking organizations to launder their drug money through the US, investigators claimed in a grand jury lawsuit. Arapahoe County with 24 pages.
The money, prosecutors said, would be exchanged using Chinese social media apps that also have digital wallets and QR codes that can be easily shared.
The main parts of the investigation came together on Nov. 20 at a mall near Cherry Creek State Park in Centennial, when an undercover officer set up a meeting with two of the alleged participants. Agents found $ 46,000 in cash, which prosecutors claim came from illegal marijuana operations.
On March 2, agents demolished homes in Centennial and Deer Trail, where they found thousands of dollars in cash, pounds of packaged marijuana and rooms to grow cultivated pots, investigators detailed in the indictment.
Two of the individuals accused of taking part in the operation were involved in marijuana cultivation efforts in Haskell County, Oklahoma, a rural community in the southeastern part of the state.
The two allegedly set up a growth operation there eight or nine months ago using money from their Colorado weed scheme, Haskell County Sheriff Tom Turner told the Denver Post.
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