The leader of a local drug ring has been sentenced to 40 years in prison as part of a stiff punishment handed down by a Mesa County judge.
Federico Lerma admitted his role in moving up to five kilograms - or thousands of hits of cocaine -every ten days in and out of Grand Junction. As part of the plea deal, he was supposed to get anywhere for 10 to 48 years behind bars and was sentenced closer to the maximum.
The judge cited the aggravated circumstances in this case including Lerma's connections to drug cartels moving drugs across the western United States.
Lerma also forced his wife and two teenage children to help run the business and even took his infant grandchild on drug deals to ensure he wouldn't get caught.
Police were tipped off to the operation in May of 2011 and after a long investigation using wiretaps were able to catch him in the act.
"He was caught with about one kilogram of cocaine on him. He would hide the drugs in the air filter of his car and the money in the diaper bag," Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said.
"It sends a strong message to community that dealing drugs will result in prison and you need to stop that behavior," he added. "But, I also think it does cut off the supply for quite a while. Someone bringing in this quantity of drugs, he was supplying lot of people."
Lerma's two children will not face charges in this case. His wife pleaded guilty and has already been deported to Mexico for her role in the ring. Lerma, meanwhile, will spend the next 40 years behind bars America before being deported himself.
But the fight is far from over the Mesa County prosecutors. Lerma's 16-year-old son has been transported to El Paso, TX, where he faces deportation. The D.A.'s office is currently working to prevent that because he helped the investigation immensely.