24 people busted in alleged ‘drug-fueled’ crime operation in the Denver area

Suspects sold stolen goods for meth, heroin and coke, prosecutors say
Posted at 3:54 PM, Nov 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-04 23:47:33-05

DENVER — A Denver grand jury indicted last month two dozen members of an alleged criminal organization on 175 criminal counts, according to a news release Monday from the Denver District Attorney’s Office.

Many of the suspects in the 24-person crime ring lived together and conspired to commit a multitude of crimes in the Denver metro area between February 5, 2017, and October 2019, to support their illegal drug habits, prosecutors allege in the release.

Authorities said three suspects led the group as they shared stolen money, property, cars, IDs, food, clothing and illegal drugs. The alleged ring leaders were charged with violating Colorado’s Organized Crime Control Act, among other charges, and include a married couple — Donald McGrath, 39, and Sarah McGrath, 35 — and a third suspect, Thomas Bridges, 27.

Twenty-one other suspects collectively and individually are facing charges ranging from attempted murder, aggravated motor vehicle theft, impersonating a peace officer, burglary, assault, forgery and drug possession/manufacturing.

The suspects listed in the indictment include:

  • Brittany Giardino, 22
  • William Jokay-Szilagji, 28
  • Jeremy Rodgers, 33
  • James Scott, 24
  • Karen Andres, 29
  • Estevan Barrientos, 22
  • Alberto Benipayo, 42
  • William Carson, 66
  • Alexander Cole, 25
  • Essence Forsey, 23
  • Michele Lilla, 24
  • Kory Love, 30
  • Julie Martinez, 38
  • Nicole Pedroza, 35
  • Anton Pleasant, 44
  • Frederick Ricciardelli, 24
  • Gerardo Sanchez, 24
  • Robert Stanley, 33
  • Lee Swink, 46
  • Kevin Willenbrecht, 30
  • Jennifer Williamsen, 26

The group’s criminal activity didn’t cease, prosecutors said. Fueled by drug addiction, the 24 suspects stole at least 28 vehicles across the Denver-metro area and used the stolen cars to commit other crimes, including burglaries, the release read.

The suspects would then trade or sell the stolen property, guns, social security cards, credit cards, bikes, golf clubs, professional makeup kits and numerous other items to acquire methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine, according to the news release.

“At the heart of this indictment is an all-too-familiar tale of how drug addiction fuels criminal activity,” said Denver DA Beth McCann in the news release. “We need, as a community, to focus on treatment and a public health response to substance abuse to help address associated criminal behavior. This type of illegal activity negatively affected many individuals, businesses and communities throughout the Denver-metro area.”

One of the suspects pretended to be a police officer while he was stealing a vehicle and then caused bodily injury to an actual Denver Police officer while being apprehended, prosecutors allege.

The investigation was a coordinated effort between several agencies, including the Denver Police Department, Aurora Police Department, US Postal Inspection Service, and the Colorado State Patrol.