Officials announced the largest bust of an illicit marijuana operation since Colorado fully legalized weed Wednesday, charging 62 people involved in a scheme spanning five states.
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said their investigation, dubbed Operation Toker Poker, resulted in the indictment of 12 businesses. Authorities arrested 43 of the individuals involved, but 19 others are still at large. The defendants, who allegedly knew each other from high school and played poker together, are accused of laundering millions of dollars and committing fraud, along with a litany of other charges, reports The Denver Post.
The operation involved using Colorado’s legalization laws as a guise to open illegal businesses for growing marijuana. The conspirators would then sell the marijuana in other states, including Texas, Kansas, Nebraska and Ohio.
“This case is a prime example that the black market for marijuana has not gone away since recreational marijuana was legalized in our state, and in fact continues to flourish,” Coffman said in a statement Wednesday. “These trafficking rings are not just operating in the shadows, they are invading our neighborhoods and are often conducting their illegal activity in plain sight under the guise of being a legitimate business.”
The defendants are also accused of swindling Erik Pears and Joel Dreessen, two former players for the Denver Broncos, by leading them to believe they were investing in a legal growing facility.
Authorities seized 4,000 pounds of pot along with 2,600 illegally grown marijuana plants during the bust. The defendants are charged with 31 felony counts including illegal marijuana distribution, tax evasion, mortgage fraud, theft, securities fraud and attempts to influence public officials.
The Denver Police Department, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and 20 local law enforcement agencies all aided in the investigation and bust.
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