What began last spring as an investigation into three suspected methamphetamine distributors turned into one of the biggest drug busts in Moffat County history.
Dusty Schulze, taskforce supervisor for the Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team, said he expected the investigation to last one or two months.
Fifteen people face meth distribution charges in a drug sweep • Trixie Albaugh, 30 • Neldon Lee Aldridge, 42 • Sherry Bristow, 22 • Jonathan Crook, 24 • Kassandra Dilldine, 19 • Clinton Ginther, 23 • Gabriela Grijalva-Monrreal, 18 • Jonathan Herod, 42 • Ronald Jensen, 36 • Julie McLeslie, 34 • Paul Mendoza, 39 • Troy Neal, 35 • Sherry Nelson, 40 • Shaun Sanchez, 26 • Steven Wick, 29
But as the investigation progressed, it encompassed 20 people and lasted more than six months.
"It just kind of snowballed as it got going," Schulze said. "Eventually, it consumed everyone at the taskforce."
On Dec. 22 and 23, law enforcement officers from Moffat and Routt counties arrested 14 Craig residents on meth distribution and possession charges. On Dec. 27, officers arrested an Oak Creek woman, bringing the number of distribution arrests in the case to 15.
Schulze said there would be more arrests to come.
Preliminary hearings for the suspects begin later this month.
Officers decided to wrap up the investigation last month so they could complete the cases before the year's end, Schulze said.
Some officers had vacation time coming up, and the taskforce wanted everyone to help with the arrests, Schulze said.
In his 11 years in law enforcement with the Craig Police Department, Moffat County Sheriff's Office and now the drug taskforce, Schulze said this was the biggest drug investigation he has seen in Moffat County.
Wrapping up the six-month investigation was a logistical nightmare, Schulze said.
It took an entire day with a judge just to get all the arrest warrants signed, he said.
The drug taskforce had to coordinate with officers from the Steamboat Springs Police Department, Craig Police Department, Routt County Sheriff's Office, Moffat County Sheriff's Of--fice and Oak Creek Police Department.
"Without them, we couldn't have pulled off an operation of this size," Schulze said.
The case also made a lot of work for the courts.
Moffat County Judge Mary Lynne James had to push status conferences for the defendants back a few days while she worked to assign lawyers for them.
The public defender's office can't represent all of the suspects because of conflicts of interest issues. That's because the public defender has represented some of the suspects in past cases.
Bonnie Roesink, 14th Judicial District Attorney, said prosecuting the cases creates a lot of work for her office, as well.
Two prosecutors have divided up the cases, Roesink said.
Now that the investigation is complete, Schulze said he expects to spend the next month in court for the cases.
Tip of the iceberg
Schulze said anytime 15 people are arrested on meth charges, it is a substantial accomplishment for law enforcement.
The drug problem in Craig is widespread, he said.
"We could go out today and make another 20 arrests," Schulze said. "These were not the kingpins of Moffat County by any stretch of the imagination."