Nine arrested in pre-dawn raid

Craig chief of police calls bust largest in five years

Some 40 law enforcement officers executed three search warrants this morning in what Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta called the largest local anti-drug operation in five years.

"We're hoping it has a significant impact on the methamphetamine and cocaine available in this area," said Vanatta.

Nine people were arrested in this morning's action -- which authorities said was the culmination of a six-month, multi-agency investigation during which undercover officers purchased an estimated $50,000 in methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.

The alleged leader of Monday's targeted drug "organization" -- 37-year-old Benito Gomez-Medrano of Craig -- faces possible felony cocaine and methamphetamine distribution charges and, separately, a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor stemming from the alleged use of teenagers to distribute narcotics.

Gomez-Medrano, who was being held at the Moffat County Jail on unrelated charges, was served the new arrest warrant this morning.

Police Monday also arrested three other Craig residents in connection with alleged ring: 26-year-old Roberto Loya, Luis Alcantar-Burciaga, 26, and Ignacio Rodriguez, 56. All three face possible felony charges of distribution of a controlled substance.

Two Craig juveniles also were taken into custody, while Nathaniel Douglas, 24, and Anthony Rossi, 22, were both arrested in Hayden in connection with the same group.

Tactical police units armed with automatic weapons searched apartments in pre-dawn raids at two complexes: West First Avenue's Frontier Apartments and Penguin Apartments on Sixth Street.

All totaled, the searches yielded an unspecified amount of cocaine, as well as handguns and shotguns, according to Vanatta.

More arrests are expected, the chief said.

Two Craig Hispanic males were arrested during this morning's raids on unrelated alleged immigration violations.

Vanatta said the both apartment complexes were under surveillance "off and on" during the investigation, which was largely assisted by area residents' tips and information.

"These are major suppliers at a local level," Vanatta said.

Officers involved in the case -- which authorities named operation "Public Outcry" -- obtained drugs in undercover "buys" on several occasions, authorities said.

Such efforts allegedly garnered about 354 grams of methamphetamine, 110 grams of cocaine and one pound of marijuana.

Tactical units from the Craig Police Department, Moffat County Sheriff's Office, Routt County Sheriff's Office and Steamboat Springs Police Department, were part of Monday's operation.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.

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