Fugitive suspect from April drug raid arrested

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A fugitive who fled town shortly before a drug raid in April appeared in court Wednesday after an arrest in Torrington, Wyo., and extradition to Moffat County last week.

Vicente Gomez-Medrano, 27, appeared before Judge Mary Lynne James to be advised of the charges facing him. Gomez-Medrano is charged with two counts each of possession and distribution of a controlled substance, one count of possession of more than eight ounces of marijuana, and one count of distribution of marijuana. He faces four to 16 years in prison for the distribution charges, and two to eight years for the possession charges. He is being held on a $250,000 bond at the Moffat County Jail.

Gomez-Medrano remained at large after a pre-dawn drug raid in April netted nine suspects, including his brother, Benito Gomez-Medrano. According to Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta, Vicente Gomez-Medrano fled within a day of the raid, which involved some 40 law enforcement officers.

Vicente Gomez-Medrano was the "primary distributor in this bunch," Vanatta said.

At one point, Vicente Gomez-Medrano was thought to have fled to Mexico, where police suspect the alleged area drug organization was getting drugs, including methamphetamine, marijuana and cocaine.

Officials in Torrington arrested Vicente Gomez-Medrano, where he waived an extradition hearing July 18. Using Transports Across Colorado, a joint program among Colorado sheriffs to move suspects and criminals between jurisdictions, Vicente Gomez-Medrano was taken back to Moffat County July 31 to face charges.

Vicente's brother Benito Gomez-Medrano, 37, pleaded guilty July 15 to possession and distribution of methamphetamine. He faces up to eight years in state prison after securing a plea agreement with the District Attorney's office. Benito Gomez-Medrano will be sentenced Aug. 25 along with two others arrested in the raid.

The April raid followed a sting operation involving multiple agencies that lasted more than a six-month period. It was supposed to have a significant impact on the availability of drugs in the area and, Vanatta said, for a short time, it did. Since then, Vanatta said, "other players have stepped forward" to fill the gap.

Vanatta said it underscores the need for a "continued presence" by law enforcement officials in working to eradicate drugs.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com.

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