In a neighborhood full of luxurious homes with three-car garages and large lots, the sight of the SWAT members was an early morning shock for neighbors like Gordon Lange.
“You just never know who you live next to I guess. It really is shocking. Surprising,” Lange said.
The home in the 8200 block of E. 145th Place in Adams County was one of 25 houses raided across the Denver metro area as part of a large-scale marijuana investigation, 9Wants to Know has confirmed.
Sixteen people have been arrested in what officials have deemed “Operation Sweet Leaf.”
Seven kids were taken to social services after arrests were made.
“It’s just absolutely terrible conditions for kids. They’re growing large plants in the rooms with these kids,” Commander Jerry Peters with the North Metro Drug Task Force said.
Investigators say the raids were on a single organization growing marijuana in Colorado and then shipping it to as many as eight other states. The DEA, U.S. Postal Service and IRS are all involved in the investigation as well.
“Evidence gathered during the investigation demonstrates that much of the marijuana grown was being shipped out of state and was not being produced for medical purposes,” Adams County District Attorney spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said in a news release .
A total of 69 criminal charges are contained in the 16 arrest warrants, says Flannigan.
Charges include: racketeering and conspiracy under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act (“COCCA”), distribution of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, conspiracy to distribute marijuana and money laundering, she says.
The busts netted about 1,000 plants, sources tell 9Wants to Know.
The North Metro Drug Task force is leading the investigation into the large-scale grow operation.
SWAT members began conducting raids Wednesday at about 6 a.m.
“Individuals who use the U.S. mail to facilitate the transportation of illegal drugs and related proceeds are violating federal law, and these are priority investigations for our agency. It is very concerning these criminal enterprises are operating in neighborhoods, posing risks to families, children and our postal employees who process and deliver the mail,” Oscar Villanueva, Inspector in Charge of the Denver Postal Inspection Service said.
Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, says raids like this are a waste of time and money.
“The raids carried out today by Colorado law enforcement are not surprising. The laws in this country and in this state are specifically designed so that most producers of this widely used substance must do so illegally. Producers have been raided before and producers will be raided again. This never-ending cycle is costing U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars annually. And the truth is that we never get closer to ending the war on marijuana. Until we regulate and control the production and sale of marijuana, raids like this will be carried out by law enforcement in perpetuity,” Tvert said in a press release.
The investigation does not involve medicinal marijuana.
High demand for marijuana means underground grow operations like these will continue right under the noses of neighbors like John Tolve.
“You’d never expect it. It is just strange because you never know how close it could be to your house,” Tolve said.
Task Force investigators raided 25 homes in the following cities:
Denver – 4
Breckenridge – 1
Frederick – 1
Unincorporated Adams County – 1
Thornton – 4
Broomfield – 3
Northglenn – 1
Brighton – 5
Strasburg – 1
Bennett – 1
Commerce City – 1
Westminster – 1
Erie – 1
– Article originally from 9News NBC.