Pot bust puts $112,000 in sheriff’s coffers

Couple built tunnel to shuttle drugs from property into their home

Fighting crime, sometimes, does pay.

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Department received more than $112,000 Friday for its part in uncovering one of the Western Slope’s largest marijuana growing operations in 2006.

After a cooperative investigation among local, state and federal law enforcement, Beth and Alfred Topliss were arrested for growing hundreds of marijuana plants on their rural Reeder Mesa property. After being convicted on felony drug charges, the couple was ordered to forfeit the price of its property, $375,000.

That sum was divided between the agencies that executed the bust, including the Colorado Army National Guard, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. It is the first asset forfeiture award for the National Guard.

The couple built a tunnel to shuttle the drugs from their property into the home, U.S. Internal Revenue Service spokesman John Harrison said.

When authorities arrived to execute a search warrant, Alfred Topliss held a gun to his head and threatened to kill himself, but officers disarmed him.

The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service assisted in the investigation.

Harrison said law enforcement can use drug forfeiture dollars for new equipment and training in uncovering illegal drug operations.


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