Five people living in Colorado’s rural San Luis Valley are facing federal charges in Oklahoma for allegations that they planned to produce as much as 50 pounds of marijuana a month and sell it outside the state.
The marijuana was to be grown on a ranch near Crestone, in Saguache County, and other nearby properties, according to two federal criminal complaints unsealed this week.
The pot was to be distributed through an Oklahoma City-based network that was also involved in cocaine and methamphetamine distribution, according to the complaints.
Undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agents and informants — posing as investors in the scheme — infiltrated the ring before the marijuana grows were fully up and running, the complaints claim. When the Colorado men arrived with their first delivery of marijuana at the Alamosa airport last month, an undercover DEA plane was waiting on the tarmac, according to the complaints.
Agents in Colorado arrested Curtis Wagner, 49; Skylar Freeman, 25; David Steele, 48; Shawn Maminakis, 34; and Marty Shellabarger. All of the men are from Crestone, except for Shellabarger, who is from the nearby town of Moffat.
It is unclear from the complaints whether the men were connected with a state-licensed marijuana business or acting as medical marijuana caregivers.
“There is some indication there is a state legality claim,” prosecutor M.J. Menendez said this week during a court hearing for the men.
Out-of-state diversion of Colorado-grown marijuana has been a major concern for law enforcement officials since the enactment of legalization in the state.
During a hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee this week, DEA administrator Michele Leonhart said investigators are seeing more illegal marijuana flowing out of Colorado.
“We are very concerned about what we see happening in Colorado,” she said.