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Special Delivery: Larimer County Jail Foils Alleged Drug Ring After Narcotics Found Hidden In Mail

LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – In what investigators are calling a "likely first of its kind" operation, 12 northern Coloradans have been arrested on suspicion of smuggling narcotics into the Larimer County Jail through the U.S. Postal Service. Investigators say 12 people, most of whom were already in jail on unrelated charges prior to the drug ring investigation, were able to sneak narcotics into the jail with mail.

Some of the drugs were allegedly infused into the ink used in the cards.

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Investigators with the Larimer County Sheriff's Office and the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force started their investigation after receiving a lead from one of the deputies in the jail.

The jail deputy reported suspicious behavior involving some inmates communicating with people in the outside world. The deputy noticed inmates talking to people outside the jail about their growing interest in "arts and crafts."

"It looked like it could be some coded language for narcotics use," said Ian Stewart, Commander of the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force.

The concerned deputy spent weeks monitoring the conversations between the inmates in question and began reviewing their mail. Eventually some of the mail was tested for illegal drugs, and those tests came back positive for narcotics.

"We found what we believe to be suboxone, methamphetamine and what we believe to be fentanyl as well," Stewart told CBS4's Dillon Thomas.

Investigators believe the suspects diluted the drugs and used several sophisticated processes to sneak the drugs into the jail. Investigators said ink used to write messages was laced with drugs, as were some of the envelops that were likely dipped in the narcotics.

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"There was no lapse in security. There wasn't something that failed. It was just a very creative way of getting this stuff in, and great work done by a jail deputy to catch it," Stewart said.

Jail Facility Administrator Captain Bobby Moll said stopping the drug ring was a major step in protecting the health and safety of both inmates and those handling the mail.

"We have several people who touch the mail daily," Moll said. "My fear was we were going to end up with a staff member or an inmate who had an overdose death because of this. We needed to do something to combat this problem."

Both Moll and Stewart applauded the jail deputy who first noticed the ring by simply paying attention to his surroundings and reporting his suspicions.

Because of the investigation, LCSO has now solidified plans to largely stop receiving any physical mail for the inmates. Effective June 1, all mail is redirected to a facility in Texas where it is scanned and electronically uploaded to tablets in the jail. Inmates can still read mail they receive without ever being able to physically access it.

Also, the county has further invested in the security of the facility by purchasing a new body scanning device. All inmates being booked into the jail for at least one night are thoroughly searched.

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"We have a body scanner that takes a scan of your insides so we can see contraband that could be inside them," Moll said.

All inmates being checked into the facility beyond a standard book and release are now strip searched and scanned before being checked into general population.

The LCSO jail has already had to use Narcan seven times to save the lives of overdosed inmates. While deputies cannot say if any of those overdoses were directly linked to the ring they foiled, they do say changes to their operating systems should help prevent future overdose crisis.

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