21 charged with illegal marijuana operation in the Aurora area

DENVER | A group of 21 people accused of the illegal cultivation and distribution of marijuana on Metro Aurora have been charged with an alleged money laundering program, district and federal officials said Thursday.

They built and distributed marijuana throughout the subway area, with facilities to grow and store the drugs across the state, authorities said in a press release.

Officials have confiscated approximately $ 1 million in marijuana proceeds, hundreds of pounds of the drug and more than 10,000 marijuana plants, said District Attorney John Kellner, whose office covers Aurora and much of the region.

They laundered the money they made from social media apps, QR codes, and money brokers in China, according to charges based on a year-long investigation.

The 21 people face numerous charges, including extortion and conspiracy, drug cultivation and distribution, and money laundering, according to the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office.

Sixteen Chinese nationals allegedly involved in the scheme have been arrested and five more have pending arrest warrants, officials said.

Recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado. However, companies must apply for a marijuana business license to be a verified seller in the state.

Recreational marijuana laws in Colorado have “made it easier for groups like this to thrive,” said Kellner.

“As the discussion and debate about legalizing marijuana in the state of Colorado came to a head, there were many people who said it would root out and end the black market – and that’s incredibly far from the truth,” he added.

Agents from the US Drug Administration and Homeland Security Investigations were involved in the investigation.

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Nieberg is a corps member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a not-for-profit national utility that places journalists on local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.

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