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Denver drug ring busted after meth found in sealed water bottles

KDVR.com, August 22, 2013

DENVER — Investigators call it “Operation Thirst Quencher,” because of where the criminals hid their methamphetamine.

After a seven month investigation, detectives were led to a Denver apartment complex where they found meth, cocaine, illegal weapons and $80,000 in cash.

“Investigators have uncovered and interrupted an international drug-smuggling ring that trafficked meth from Mexico through the ports of entry in El Paso, Texas and San Diego, California,” said DEA agent Barbra Roach. “In total we have seized 35.5 pounds of meth valued between $300,000 and $500,000 and 3.5 kilos of cocaine with a street value of approximately $100,000.”

Officials say Mexican drug cartels started using flavored water bottles to hide liquid meth in plain sight.

“Historically, meth has been trafficked to the U.S. in crystallized form. This case is evidence of a clear change in strategy,” Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said.

Investigators say couriers for a Denver-based drug ring carried factory sealed bottled water in a variety of labels across the border on a weekly basis until the DEA discovered the cartel’s newest tactic.

“That’s what the cartels are always looking for down in Mexico. They’re looking for new techniques and new ways to conceal their drugs,” DEA agent Robert Saccone said.

They also discovered liquid meth disguised as windshield wiper fluid.

“Liquid meth is frankly harder to detect than crystallized meth for dogs and humans. Liquid meth is also more toxic and poses more of a hazard to those who come in contact with it,” Suthers said.

Fifteen people have been indicted, and 11 have been arrested in the case so far.

The investigation is ongoing, and agencies are working with domestic and international law enforcement agencies to extradite additional individuals.