Illegal Marijuana Shipping Operation Crackdown Snags Father/son Duo
~ by Trevor Phipps ~
The Teller County Sheriff’s Office, with help from the Cripple Creek Police, has added another tally to their list of foiled illegal marijuana manufacturing operations.
Only this time, the house busted for growing an excessive amount of cannabis was located right in the middle of the city of Cripple Creek.
In fact, according to Teller County Sheriff Commander Greg Couch, the raided residence sits less than 500 feet away from Cripple Creek High School. Couch noted that from one of the pictures taken by the police from the raid, the high school football field can be seen just behind the house.
The investigation started when the newly formed Teller County Narcotics Team( TNT) began an inquiry surrounding an illegal drug distribution operation taking place at 116 Pikes Peak Avenue. The investigation led to the approval of a search warrant that got executed at approximately 8 a.m. on August 1.
TNT had been investigating two people that lived at the residence suspecting that they were involved in growing marijuana and shipping it out of state. Once they executed the search warrant the narcotics team’s investigations proved to be correct.
During the search, authorities found an illegally large amount of marijuana including evidence that a distribution operation was being run at the residence, located right next to the local high school. The investigators also found more than 12 marijuana plants which is the most any household can grow legally in the state of Colorado.
The total number of plants seized was actually well over the legal limit as the police officials found 43 plants, which is 30 more what any household is legally allowed. The authorities also confiscated multiple pounds of processed marijuana, seven firearms, three vehicles, and evidence of an illegal multi-state distribution operation.
During the raid, the narcotics team was able to place two people (a father and son crime duo) under arrest for felony charges. Michael Gravino, Jr., 40, and Michael Gravino, Sr., 64, both of Cripple Creek, were arrested and are being charged with offenses related to marijuana, a class two drug felony, and special drug offender, a class one drug felony. Both men are being held in the Teller County Jail on a $50,000 bond.
According to the sheriff’s commander, the two men had been shipping marijuana they grew at their Cripple Creek home via the United States Postal Service (USPS). The father and son team had been providing residents in states like Texas and California, with their illegal home-grown weed, by shipping it through the U.S. mail in boxes.
Couch said that more than one pound of processed marijuana was seized along with the illegal plants, but that the defendants were in possession of less than 10 pounds of the illegal processed drug. He also said that the investigators found evidence that the drug mailing operation had been going on at that Cripple Creek residence for at least a year.
One factor that sets this case apart from the other illegal marijuana busts is that the two suspects were arrested for a special offender drug charge. Police can charge a suspect with the special offender drug charge if there are one or more “aggravating factors” associated with the committing the drug crime, according to Colorado state law.
In this case, the two men arrested could qualify for committing at least two of these aggravating factors. For one, the state law says that anyone operating an illegal drug distribution or manufacturing operation within a thousand feet from any public school can be charged with the special drug offender crime.
Since the house Gravino Jr. and Sr. were using to illegally grow marijuana was less than 500 feet away from the town’s public high school and middle school, prosecutors can go after them with the special offender charge.
The statute also says that anyone committing a drug felony while in possession of a deadly weapon such as a gun can be charged as a special offender. Since police found seven firearms during the raid the authorities could charge them with the special offender felony. Other factors can constitute the special offender charge, including conspiring with one or more people to commit the drug crime or recruiting a minor to help with the illegal operations.
The special offender drug charge makes the suspect’s bond higher and it adds a class one drug felony to the defendant’s list of charges. The sentence for a class one drug felony in Colorado is eight to 32 years in prison, with up to a $1 million fine. And, since Colorado is a mandatory parole state, there is an automatic three years of mandatory parole time added to the length of the prison sentence.
According to Couch, the United States Postal Inspection Service is now involved in the case and they are using their resources to get to the bottom of the crimes and to prevent such an incident from occurring in the future. “The postal inspectors are all over it,” Couch said. “They want copies of all of the information from our investigation so that they can go after them.”