Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — A man who sold synthetic opiates to an undercover law enforcement agent pleaded guilty on Monday to distributing a Schedule II controlled substance, leading prosecutors to dismiss a majority of charges against him.
Jeffrey Allen Mitchell originally stood accused of eight additional felony counts for his role in an alleged prescription drug ring, and prosecutors were prepared to file two new charges if the case went to trial.
But Deputy District Attorney Mark Loy said his office is satisfied with the terms of Mitchell’s plea deal, since the remaining charge is a serious Class 3 felony.
The 30-year-old La Jara man faces a presumptive sentence of four to 16 years in state prison.
Under exceptional circumstances, 12th Judicial District Judge Pattie Swift could sentence Mitchell to anywhere from two to 32 years behind bars. The crime also carries a potential fine that ranges from $3,000 to $750,000, along with a mandatory parole term of five years.
Authorities arrested Mitchell and 14 other people last October, following a multi-agency investigation into an alleged drug ring that stretched from Conejos County to Salida and Cañon City.
At the time, law enforcement officials who spearheaded the effort called the bust a significant disruption of southern Colorado’s drug trade.
Undercover agents allegedly purchased methamphetamine and Ecstasy from some of the suspects. But most of the controlled substances they allegedly bought were prescription drugs, according to a joint law enforcement press release.
Investigators claimed that most of the suspects obtained oxycodone, OxyContin, Vicodin and other drugs by convincing licensed physicians that they needed prescriptions for the powerful painkillers.
Deputy Public Defender Amanda Hopkins told the court on Monday that Mitchell sold a “certain quantity” of oxycodone pills to a Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent on or about Sept. 6, 2012.
In two related cases, Hopkins’ office previously entered not guilty pleas on behalf of Mitchell’s wife, Hollye, and Jennifer Rivera-Lovato of Manassa. (Hollye Mitchell is set to appear in district court today.)
But at least two more defendants ultimately decided to take prosecutors up on their offers.
Stella Ann Schimpf pleaded guilty in January to attempted distribution of a Schedule II controlled substance. The La Jara woman initially faced three counts of distributing a Schedule II controlled substance, along with three related counts of conspiracy to distribute.
On Feb. 12, Manassa resident Pamela Richardson pleaded guilty to distributing a Schedule II controlled substance. She originally stood accused of three additional charges of distribution, along with a related count of conspiracy to distribute.
Valley residents Billy Darrel Webster, Tessa “Famie” Silva and Savannah McDermott were also arrested during last October’s sweep.