An eight month investigation into illegal drug activity in the Lower Arkansas Valley has been completed and has resulted in over 31 arrests or active warrants involving drug and weapon charges.
Operation Prairie Snow was started by the 16th Judicial Drug Task Force in October 2017. The 16th Judicial Drug Task Force is made up of regional law enforcement agencies and Operation Prairie Snow was conducted with the assistance of the Bent County Sheriff’s Office, La Junta Police Department, the 16th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the Crowley County Sheriff’s Office. As a result of Operation Prairie Snow, law enforcement agencies were able to seize methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, marijuana, guns and cash.
As a result of the investigation, warrants for the arrest of multiple individuals were issued and arrests were made with the assistance of the Bent County Sheriff’s Office, the La Junta Police Department, the Otero County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado State Patrol.
Bent County Sheriff Dave Encinias who was actively involved in the investigation, said that law enforcement throughout the Lower Arkansas Valley has continued to address and battle illegal drugs in the area.
“We are constantly trying to battle the problem” Encinias stated, “But, they’re always watching us while we are watching them, which makes it tough. We just want the public to know that we are always doing something, we just can’t always make it public.”
Encinias said he contacted La Junta Police Chief Todd Quick about working together to combat the problem. They then joined forces with the 16th Judicial Drug Task Force. An undercover police officer was hired and Operation Prairie Snow commenced. For the next eight months, the undercover police officer purchased illegal drugs leading to the 30 plus arrests.
Encinias and Quick said this is a great example of teamwork. Encinias and Quick, both veterans in their field, said the current drug task force is the strongest it has been in years. The task force works together on any opportunity to train future members of the task force to ensure the fight against drugs is ongoing and consistently successful.
Law Enforcement encourages everyone to be aware of and report suspicious activity by calling law enforcement or through Tip411.
District Attorney Investigator Vincent Fraker reported that as a result of Operation Prairie Snow, 31 arrest warrants had been requested with 29 felony defendants. There are more felony charges to be filed which may result in additional arrests. 2 misdemeanor arrests were made for marijuana sales.
The investigation resulted in the purchase of 50 prescription pills, 3.2 grams of marijuana, 35 grams of methamphetamine, 1.1 grams of heroin and .4 grams of cocaine. Also purchased during the operation was 1 handgun, 1 rifle and one stolen chainsaw. A total of $2,180 was spent of drug task force funds in the operation.
As a result of Operation Prairie Snow there was 61 undercover operations on 33 defendants which resulted in criminal charges, to include unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, possession of a firearm by a previous offender, sale of firearms without background checks, theft, marijuana offenses and child abuse.
As a direct result of Operation Prairie Snow and the undercover officers’ efforts, there have been other criminal cases investigated and brought by local authorities in Bent and Otero Counties resulting in additional arrests and charges. All defendants charged as a result of the arrests are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.