A federal grand jury has indicted two individuals suspected of illegally growing marijuana on BLM lands along the lower Dolores River.
According to court documents, in April a Bureau of Land Management ranger noticed two trucks conspicuously but consistently appearing in an area along the Dolores River south of Gateway. An investigation was launched, and the rangers discovered, then raided, two large marijuana grows on BLM lands in Montrose County.
The first raid on Sept. 15 resulted in the arrest of four defendants who were on site. BLM rangers discovered more than “1,200 full mature marijuana plants, many exceeding six feet tall, along with 211 kilograms (465 pounds) of dried marijuana and a rifle,” according to a U.S. Attorney’s office press release. Officers spent 2½ days removing the plants.
Then on Sept. 30, authorities raided another illegal marijuana farm on BLM land about four miles away along the Dolores River, according to reports. Evidence of at least 1,000 marijuana plants appeared recently harvested with about 69.6 kilograms of processed marijuana still on site. Rangers arrested one Honduran and five Mexican nationals at or near the second site.
After the raids, the BLM and Drug Enforcement Agency continued to monitor the area, and the same two vehicles previously suspected were seen in the area. Investigation led to two addresses, and on Nov. 13, the DEA, along with other authorities, executed a search warrant at a residence in Parachute and one identified as the “San Juan Vista Property.”
At the Parachute residence, evidence of illegal marijuana activity, including the names of some of the defendants arrested in September, were found. At the San Juan Vista Property, about 1,720 pounds of marijuana was recovered during the Nov. 13 raid.
The two men indicted, Luis Adolfo Garcia, 33, of Parachute, and Luis Rios-Cortes, 23, a Mexican national, are charged with illegally manufacturing and intending to distribute marijuana. They are being held without bond.
The property raided on Nov. 13 where the marijuana was found was owned by Luis Garcia’s sister, Esther Garcia, who also owned the Parachute residence that was searched, and the Chevy Silverado seen in the area of the illegal grow sites, according to the Department of Justice press release.
“We have seen a notable increase this year in illegal marijuana grows in Western Colorado,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “As we work with the DEA, BLM, and our local law enforcement partners, we are seizing large amounts of marijuana.”
The section of lower Dolores River where the illegal grows were found is popular with boaters during spring and summer. Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, urges recreationists to report suspicious activity.
“If you stumble on to something, take note of the location and contact authorities,” he said. “In addition to being a danger to the public — growers can be armed — it also causes environmental harm to the land.”
Complicated infrastructure was used for irrigating the illegal grow sites found along the Dolores River, Dorschner said, and pesticides – some illegal – were also found.