Trio arrested in Mesa County indicted in operation against cartel

A federal grand jury in Denver indicted three men who were arrested in Mesa County in October as part of a national strike against a Mexican drug cartel.

Raul Avila-Arellano, 26, Jose Gonzalez-Zuniga, 43, and Jesus Hernandez-Corona, 27, were charged Dec. 1 with felony counts of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. The indictment alleges each man was in possession of more than 500 grams of cocaine and more than 50 grams of methamphetamine, when they were arrested Oct. 20 in Mesa County.

The trio was moving drugs between Aug. 24 and Oct. 20, according to the indictment.

Authorities have declined to speak about the circumstances surrounding their arrests in Grand Junction, and court records filed in Mesa County remain under seal.

The men initially were charged in state court, but those cases have been dismissed. The three men had been living in the Montrose area prior to their arrests, according to the U.S. Attorney General’s office. Federal immigration authorities had placed holds on them as suspected illegal immigrants.

The arrests happened one day before authorities announced what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the largest single sweep of a Mexican drug cartel operating in the United States; more than 300 people were arrested with alleged links to the La Familia drug cartel.

In announcing the arrests of 11 men in western Colorado with alleged ties to the group, federal prosecutors said three more people linked to La Familia were being held on state charges, but they declined to name the three.

Jim Schrant, resident agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Grand Junction, said in October that he could not confirm or deny that Avila-Arellano, Gonzalez-Zuniga, and Hernandez-Corona, were tied into La Familia.

Federal law enforcement has described the group, which is based in the southwestern Mexico state of Michoacan, as the newest and most violent of Mexico’s five drug cartels.


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