DENVER -- Federal law enforcement officials announced they have made the largest mass drug arrest in Colorado history on Thursday, shutting down four drug rings in the metro area with ties to gangs, bank robbers and Mexican drug cartels.
The massive law enforcement action involved "hundreds upon hundreds" of federal agents and local police officers, said Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for U.S. Attorney John F. Walsh.
There were at least 70 arrests in the Denver metro area, according to a source close to the investigation.
Another source close told CALL7 Investigator John Ferrugia that the investigation began about two years ago when authorities arrested members of a notoriously violent bank robbery gang, the Hoppin Hooded Bands, and Blood street gang members in Aurora and Denver.
Separate federal and local police investigations into cocaine trafficking united, and the arrests of gang members led agents up the organized crime hierarchy to major drug traffickers in Mexico and California, the source told Ferrugia.
Early Thursday, an army of law enforcement agents began arresting drug distributors in Los Angeles along with Denver gang members and Mexican nationals in Colorado, the source said. Mexican drug traffickers have been identified and charged in the crackdown, but not yet arrested.
The investigation aims to take down a drug trafficking network between Mexico, Los Angeles and Denver, Ferrugia reported.
Investigation Started With Hoppin Hooded Bandits
The Hoppin Hooded Bandits were suspected of robbing four banks in one month in 2009.
Surveillance photos from one bank robbery showed a group of three to four men walking into banks wearing hoods and masks and brandishing their weapons in a take-over style robbery.
In Feb. 2011 a man believed to be one of the Hoppin Hooded Bandits was arrested at a Denver home.
Timothy McGlothin had been indicted by a federal grand jury on Jan. 6, 2011, along with his suspected accomplice, Joshua Licona. Licona was already in federal custody.
The indictment alleged that McGlothin and Licona used a handgun to rob the Bank of Denver, 800 E. 17th Ave., on Dec. 23, 2011. A second count alleges that the two used a handgun during and in relation to a crime of violence, in furtherance of that crime, namely the armed bank robbery.
Federal and local authorities are holding a 2 p.m. news briefing at the Aurora City Council Chambers.
The crackdown involved the FBI, Metro Gang Task Force, Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and the North Metro Drug Task Force.
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