Federal prosecutors have obtained an indictment on a weapons charge against a man arrested during major raids on Colorado medical-marijuana businesses.
The indictment charges 49-year-old Hector Diaz, who is a citizen of Colombia, with a single count of possessing a firearm in violation of his visa. The charge is identical to the one prosecutors filed against Diaz in a criminal complaint last month. The indictment moves the case along more quickly, and it is common in federal court for prosecutors to follow a criminal complaint with an indictment.
Prosecutors obtained the indictment from a grand jury Tuesday, but it was not made public until Wednesday.
Diaz is the only person charged so far in major raids last month on more than a dozen addresses tied to Colorado medical-marijuana businesses. Sources have told The Denver Post that the raids, the largest federal strike against medical-marijuana businesses ever in Colorado, were against an operation that investigators suspect may have connections to Colombian drug cartels.
In court documents and testimony, Diaz has not been accused of any connection to drug cartels, and his defense attorney has submitted documents showing that Diaz is a reserve police officer in his hometown in Colombia.
Instead, the allegations against Diaz stem from a picture that investigators believe was taken in February at a Cherry Hills Village house where Diaz was subsequently found during the raids. The photo shows Diaz holding two “authentic-looking semi-automatic rifles,” according to an investigator’s affidavit filed last month along with the original criminal complaint. Diaz also appeared to have two handguns in his waistband and was wearing a Drug Enforcement Administration ballcap, according to the document.
The charge in the indictment references only one of those suspected weapons, a military-style Smith and Wesson M&P 15, which investigators found at the Cherry Hills Village house during the raids. In an interview with investigators, Diaz admitted to holding the weapons inside the house after he’d been drinking, according to the affidavit. Because Diaz was in the United States on a visa only for tourism and limited business purposes, he was not allowed to possess firearms.
If convicted, Diaz could face as much as 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, though attorneys have said in court the sentence would likely be much less. Prosecutors are also seeking forfeiture of the rifle.
Earlier this week, a magistrate judge said he would allow Diaz to be released from custody on a $25,000 bond, assuming Diaz can meet certain conditions required for electronic monitoring. The earliest that could happen is Thursday, though it is unclear whether the indictment will change that.
John Ingold: 303-954-1068, email@example.com or twitter.com/john_ingold