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Aurora Woman Who Was 'Kingpin' Of Drug Running Operation Sentenced To Prison

DENVER (CBS4) - An Aurora woman who created a drug-running operation which transported methamphetamine, cocaine, fentanyl, and heroin from sources in Mexico into California and ultimately to Colorado's Front Range was sentenced last week.

Candelaria Vallejo-Gallo, 43, was sentenced Friday to 23 years in federal prison.

Vallejo-Gallo pleaded guilty last November to two drug distribution charges. United States District Court Judge Raymond Moore allowed Vallejo-Gallo to serve a separate 20-year sentence for money laundering at the same time as the drug sentence.

She was initially charged with 52 criminal counts.

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Vallejo-Gallo was deemed by federal prosecutors to be the employer of a network of interstate load transporters, local runners, multi-pound drug customers, and lieutenants, according to the grand jury indictment.

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From March 2019 through February 2020, members of Vallejo-Gallo's network picked up drugs in California and delivered them across Utah to her. Law enforcement intercepted and seized over three hundred pounds of methamphetamine, over two kilograms of heroin, approximately two kilograms of cocaine, and approximately a kilogram and a half of fentanyl pills during this time period, according to the indictment.

The plea agreement lists four incidents in which operatives were arrested by Utah law enforcement. Two traffic stops were made on Interstate 70 by Colorado authorities near Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs.

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Also, more than a dozen purchases of illicit drugs were made by undercover agents from Vallejo-Gallo or her operatives in Denver and Aurora. She was also observed actively distributing drugs.

In carrying out the conspiracy, Vallejo-Gallo used threats of violence to members of her organization whom she perceived to be disloyal, the Denver Office of the U.S. Attorney General stated in its press release announcing Vallejo-Gallo's sentence. Prosecutors overheard these threats, and other expressions of Vallego-Gallo's desire to kills rivals, with the help of a court-ordered wiretap.

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As part of the plea agreement, Vallejo-Gallo also surrendered a pickup truck, a car, a 9mm handgun, and the more than $65,000 in currency that was found at her residence in the 1500 block of South Iola Street at the time of her arrest.

"We continue to bring all our investigative capabilities to bear on Drug Trafficking Organizations who distribute dangerous poison like meth and fentanyl in Colorado," said Ryan L. Spradlin, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, Denver. "This sentence holds Candelaria accountable for her crimes and serves as a warning that HSI and its law enforcement partners will work diligently to keep highly addictive drugs out of Colorado."

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Twenty-seven other people were named in the indictment. Of those, 22 have had their cases resolved.

  • Luis Gerardo Palacios was sentenced 11/30/2021 to 168 months in prison.
  • Eber Uriel Perez-Ramirez was sentenced 04/26/2021 to 126 months in prison.
  • Rosaura Vallejo-Gallo was sentenced 11/09/2021 to 24 months in prison.
  • Christian Palacios was sentenced 06/22/2021 to 30 months in prison.
  • Grecia Stephanie Torres-Pablo was sentenced 11/23/2021 to 55months in prison.
  • Alexis Aaron Hernandez-Reyes was sentenced 02/12/2021 to 70 months in prison.
  • Javier Alejandro Vallejo-Gallo was sentenced 10/28/2021 to 29 months in prison.
  • Jose Tomas Denes-Torres was sentenced 12/01/2021 to 54 months in prison.
  • Jesus Antillo-Quintero was sentenced 02/07/2022 to 120 months prison. Notice of Appeal has been filed.
  • Omar Rivas-Saenz was sentenced 12/21/2021 to 176 months in prison.
  • Mario Rosendo Ibanez-Montes was sentenced 12/16/2021 to 108 months in prison.
  • Tonatiuh Tacuba-Palacios's Case was transferred to the District of Utah; sentenced there 12/14/21 to 84 months in prison.
  • Beatriz Adriana Martinez-Meza was sentenced 02/03/2022 to 42 months in prison.
  • Michelle Josefina Castaneda was sentenced 12/01/2021 to 30 months in prison.
  • Edgar Abraham Esquivel-Tecalco was sentenced 11/23/2021 to 48 months in prison.
  • Adela Guzman was sentenced 12/06/2021 to 36 months in prison.
  • Juan Felipe Cabrera's Case was transferred to District of Utah; sentenced there 12/27/21 to 60 months in prison.
  • Karen Denisse Lopez-Jimenez's Case was transferred to District of Utah; sentenced there 21/8/21 to 42 months in prison.
  • Maria Monica Nieto-Estrada was sentenced 12/16/2021 to 36 months prison.
  • Eric Leonard Martinez was sentenced 08/03/2021 to 72 months in prison.
  • Steven Luckenbill was sentenced 11/09/2021 to 91 months in prison.
  • Carlos Vicente Ramirez was sentenced 06/30/2021 to 18 months in prison.

Four people named in the indictment - Jesus Ruiz Velasco-Ochoa, Humberto Gastelum-Verdugo, Enrique Raul Montoya-Arce and Maria Guadalupe Sanchez-Gaytan - have active warrants for their arrest and are not known to be in custody.

Kenia Vallejo-Gallo, one of Candelaria Vallejo-Gallo's daughters, has pleaded guilty to charges and is scheduled for sentencing in late May.

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Strike Force, made up of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), headed the investigation. They were helped locally by members of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, and the Colorado State Patrol.

At the time of her arrest, officials said Candelaria Vallejo-Gallo is from Mexico and was in the United States illegally. CBS4 has requested information from the U.S. Attorney General's Office about the immigration status of those people named in the indictment. This story will be updated with any response.

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