‘Primo’ bragged of slinging meth, court filing says
Rumors of a western Colorado drug ring that dealt hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine and cocaine got confirmation when a confidential informant whispered in the ear of a federal agent in January.
That conversation set off a series of events that led to the taking down of the drug ring with the arrests of 25 members. In all, a grand jury indicted 36 people in connection with its dealings.
The reputed head of the ring, Francisco Peralta-Cabral of Rifle, is in custody and authorities are working to win the cooperation of Mexican officials to bring in a man known only as Cain to stand trial in Mesa County.
Applications for search warrants and wiretaps paint a picture of an organization closely controlled by Peralta-Cabral from his home in Meeker via a trusted lieutenant in Grand Junction, Leonel Gonzalez-Gonzalez, who had no known address and who had come under the indirect scrutiny of authorities previously when he suffered an overdose of cocaine in a Horizon Drive motel.
Investigators noted several times in court papers that high-ranking members of the ring employed sophisticated means of foiling authorities — and possibly drug-dealing competitors — who were trying to follow them in vehicles.
The informant, who remains unidentified, told of dealing with a man he knew only as “Johnny,” who bragged of taking 10 kilograms — roughly 22 pounds — each of cocaine and methamphetamine to Grand Junction every 15 days.
Johnny and Gonzalez-Gonzalez turned out to have the same cellphone number, which police began to monitor under the auspices of a Mesa County warrant.
Tracking the calls to and from Johnny while working with confidential informants, authorities pieced together a picture of the ring.
Johnny, filings suggest, was a third-tier leader in the organization, answering to Jose Zepeda-Osuna, 34, and at one point bragged that he was collecting $80,000 a week from his illicit activities, the informant told authorities.
Johnny told an informant he was selling cocaine and meth each for $1,200 to $1,300 an ounce, and at one point an informant approached him to buy an ounce of each.
Authorities gave the informant $2,500 and monitored the transaction from a distance. The informant returned with an ounce of each substance and change from the deal, the filings said, without elaborating further.
At $1,200 an ounce, one of Johnny’s twice-per-month trips to Grand Junction with 44 combined pounds of methamphetamine and cocaine would have grossed nearly $850,000.
Zepeda-Osuna, according to court filings, bragged of having dealt drugs in western Colorado for 10 years without ever having been arrested. Members of the ring referred to him as “Primo” or “Primito.” He remains in the Mesa County Jail without bond.
Grand Junction police dealt with Johnny on Nov. 9, 2012, when a police officer cruising past 2833 North Ave. saw three men “split up suspiciously,” the filing said.
Officers rounded up the three and a witness said he had seen Johnny ingest an amount of cocaine about the size of a golf ball.
Johnny, known to police at that time as Gonzalez-Gonzalez, said he had just eaten chocolate. An officer, however, reported seeing white powder between his teeth.
Several hours later, the Street Crimes Unit was called to a Horizon Drive motel, where a man believed to be Gonzalez-Gonzalez had collapsed after ingesting a large amount of cocaine.
Gonzalez-Gonzalez was treated at St. Mary’s Hospital and the filing suggested no further law enforcement action was taken against him.
In at least one instance officers described Gonzalez-Gonzalez and another man preparing for a drug transaction by pulling up to the pumps at a gas station and then exiting the vehicle.
One stepped inside the store for a moment and then returned to the car and promptly left.
“It appeared this may have been a ‘burn run,’” or an effort to determine if they were being followed, the filings said.
Officers pursued the same vehicle to Rifle, where Zepeda-Osuna lived, but were frustrated there.
“Due to the large amount of countersurveillance Zepeda conducts in and around his apartment and the fact that the road is a dead-end into a cul-de-sac, surveillance did not actually go into the neighborhood to verify where the car went,” the affidavit said.