14 arrested in SW Colorado in meth distribution ring

Approximately 10 pounds of methamphetamine were seized in a series of searches the past six weeks, officials said March, 18, 2014.

Approximately 10 pounds of methamphetamine were seized in a series of searches the past six weeks, officials said March, 18, 2014.

DURANGO, Colo. — Fourteen people have been arrested in southwest Colorado after about 10 pounds of methamphetamine were seized following an investigation of a distribution organization, the Southwest Drug Task Force and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced Tuesday.

The drugs were valued at about $450,000. There also was a seizure of about $8,000 in cash and the recovery of stolen guns and other property.

Officials say the organization was moving large amounts of meth to Durango and southwest Colorado. The arrests were made in the past 45 days.

The investigation centered on Joseph Fitapelli, 58, of Bayfield. Investigators contacted two Las Vegas residents on March 11 and they were taken into custody.

A search warrant was executed on their vehicle and about 4 pounds of suspected methamphetamine was found. Fitapelli was arrested after another traffic stop and was found to be in possession of $8,000 to $10,000 in cash. Officials say the meth was going to Fitapelli.

Several search warrants were then executed with several agencies providing assistance. Several ounces of meth, suspected stolen guns and stolen property were recovered during the searches.

The case remains under investigation and more arrests are likely. Officials say the organization has confirmed ties to Las Vegas, California and into high-level Mexican drug cartel subjects.

Arrested were Joseph Fitapelli, 55, of Bayfield; Derrik Martinez, 28, of Durango; Jose  Garcia-Ochoa, 19, of Las Vegas; Pamela Chandler, 50, of Durango; Peyton St. Germain, 21, of Durango; Loyd Groomer, 58, of Farmington, N.M.; Milton Korthank, 38, of Durango; Daniel  Gastelo-Ochoa, 24, of Las Vegas; Aaron McMinn, 41, of Bayfield; Danielle Burton, 38, of Bayfield; Ronnie Gunkel, 41, of Bayfield; Cristian Lopez, 22, of Las Vegas; Miguel Miranda-Sanchez, 23, of Las Vegas; and Travis Schield, 49, of Durango.