Task force arrests 12 in drug dragnet

The Western Colorado Drug Task Force arrested a dozen Grand Junction and Clifton residents Friday in an apparent drug sting that took some time to investigate and several law enforcement agencies to carry out.

Local law enforcement officials are keeping most of the details to themselves pending updates in the case, but they said four of the 12 were arrested on suspicion of money laundering, distribution and manufacturing of a controlled substance, special offender and conspiracy, all felonies.

The first to be arrested early Friday were Leonel Valencia, 37, 2896 Orchard Ave.; Nicolas Flores, 33, 2912 Sandra Ave.; and Carlos Ballardo-Lopez, 66, address unavailable.

Later in the day, the task force announced the arrest of six more people: Ester Rodell, 53; Pamela Bradley, 28; Storlyn Tate, 30; Luis Vasquez, 36; Russell Emerson, 43; and Cory Bird, 29.

Two other people were issued summonses, but no details were provided by law enforcement about what they were. They were issued to Rainbow Herrera, 29, and Howard Nickle, 57. The 12th suspect, Leanna Herrera, 50, was issued a summons on suspicion of contempt of court.

Bradley was arrested on suspicion of felony special offender and two counts of distribution and manufacturing. Bird was arrested on suspicion of violating a restraining order, failure to appear in court and three probation-violation warrants. Emerson was arrested on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance.

The remaining four were still in the booking process, but the task force said their charges would be similar to the others.

The arrests were conducted with help from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Grand Junction Police Department and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department Street Crimes Unit and SWAT team.

Mesa County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said arrest warrants for the suspects were sealed by court order. As a result, she could not reveal any details about the arrests.


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