Marijuana plants await processing at Colorado marijuana retailer High Country Healing in Silverthorne in January 2015. (Helen H. Richardson, Denver Post file)

Federal bust in Colorado over pot shipped to Florida

Agents confiscate more than 1,000 marijuana plants in network of 8 illegal grow sites

Updated Sept. 3, 2015 at 7:03 p.m.

Officials say 20 people in southern Colorado were part of an illegal marijuana syndicate that harvested pot at eight properties — more than 1,000 plants — and shipped it to Florida via the United Parcel Service.

Federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local police officers have confiscated 28 guns, more than $25,000 and 50 pounds of processed marijuana, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Search warrants were executed by U.S. Drug Enforcement agents and local sheriff’s offices in Custer and Freemont counties near the towns of Cotopaxi and Westcliffe.

Twenty people have been charged and 17 are in custody, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Colorado, media release.

All 20 defendants face a variety of drug trafficking charges, including conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 plants of marijuana. They each face penalties of not less than 10 years, and up to life in federal prison.

The warrants served were a result of an investigation that began in May 2014 by the Southern Colorado Drug Task Force and the Colorado Springs DEA.

Agents discovered four vacuum-sealed packages containing 1,249 grams of marijuana in one of the Westcliffe homes.

Agents observed suspects shipping four packages of marijuana by UPS to Florida.

Court documents say two Florida men, Griesys Leon and Rafael Hernandez, rented one of the eight homes where large-scale marijuana grows were in operation. The men raised suspicion by offering to pay more than the advertised rental rate.

Among those arrested was 51-year-old Jorge Rodriguez-Leiva, who had a Cuban passport.

Arrest warrants were also filed for Yosandris Rogue De Escobar, 26, Adalberto Fernandez-Linares, 51, Miguel Moreno, 52, Lilia Gomez, 48, Victor Garcia, 68, Felix Barbaro Donates-Blanco, 43, Jorge Garcia-Cabello, 50, Jesus Fernandez-Diaz, 48, Victor Gonzalez-Gonzalez, 40, Luis Aragon, 54, Alianet Garcia-Romero, 21, Wilfredo Figueroa Diaz, 45, and Hector Rogue De Escobar, 48.

Kirk Mitchell: 303-954-1206, kmitchell@denverpost.com or twitter.com/kirkmitchell

This story was first published on DenverPost.com