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A 'Lieutenant' Of Denver Drug Kingpin Gets 14 Years in Prison

DENVER (CBS4) -- A man in the U.S. illegally who assisted in a Denver-based drug ring was sentenced to more than 14 years in prison last week.

Omar Rivas-Saenz, 31, was arrested by local police and federal authorities in 2019 - twice.

Those authorities called Rivas-Saenz a "lieutenant" of the drug ring's founder, Candelaria Vallejo-Gallo.

Omar Rivas- Saenz (Denver DA)
Omar Rivas-Saenz in a 2019 booking photo. (credit: Denver District Attorney's Office)

Vallejo-Gallo was referred to as the alleged "kingpin" of the operation when federal authorities announced an indictment against Vallejo-Gallo and 29 other people, including Rivas-Saenz, in February 2020. Federal authorities accused the group of delivering large amounts of methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl from Mexico into Colorado through California.

The fentanyl pills were disguised to look like prescription oxycodone.

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Rivas-Saenz directed the delivery and distribution of the drugs, federal prosecutors claimed.

Rivas-Saenz was first arrested May 16, 2019, by a Denver Police Department officer after he sold a confidential FBI source almost a pound of meth earlier in the day, according to his plea agreement. Investigators found nearly seven more pounds in Rivas-Saenz's vehicle, $6,000 in cash, and more drugs and cash at his residence. Several firearms were also seized.

Rivas-Saenz appeared in Denver court, was found to have an expired B-2 visa card, but was given a GPS ankle monitor and bonded out of jail.

Rivas-Saenz cut off the monitor and failed to show up at his next court hearing.

Six days after his first arrest, he sold a confidential FBI source another pound of meth.

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Rather than arrest him immediately, federal authorities continued their surveillance of Rivas-Saenz. This included conversations with Vallejo-Gallo, according to details in the plea agreement.

On September 12, 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials attempted to arrest Rivas-Saenz on a warrant. Rivas-Saenz's vehicle collided with police vehicles and he ran away from the scene on foot, but was found hiding in a back yard and eventually taken into custody with the use of a Taser.

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Rivas-Saenz reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors last June and pleaded guilty to a single of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. He forfeited his firearms - a .45 caliber pistol, 9mm pistol, 'Uzi' style .45 caliber semi automatic pistol, and a .556 caliber semi automatic rifle - and agreed to waive his right to an appeal. In exchange, prosecutors dropped eight other counts.

Rivas-Saenz was sentenced Thursday to to 176 months in federal prison.

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(credit: CBS)

Online criminal records now show 28 individuals being prosecuted as a result of the drug ring investigation. Twenty of those cases have concluded since March, Rivas-Saenz's being the most recent.

Vallejo-Gallo reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in November. She faces possible life in prison. Her sentencing is scheduled for February 17, 2022.




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