Four women have sued the city of Trinidad and three police officers for allegedly conducting an illegal drug sting operation that violated their constitutional rights.
Denver attorneys David Lane and Casey Denson filed the civil lawsuit in Denver U.S. District Court on Monday on behalf of Raquel Garcia, Marilyn Tyler, Vickie Vargas and Melissa Vialpando.
The plaintiffs sued the city of Trinidad, Det. Sgt. Phil Martin, Det. Sgt. Arsenio Vigil and police officer Lauren Riddle.
Trinidad Police Chief Charles Glorioso could not immediately be reached for comment.
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys fees and a declaration the defendants' conduct was unconstitutional.
The lawsuit claims that in December 2013 the police department arrested numerous people, including innocent people in a highly publicized drug sting operation.
The arrests were based on false, deficient and misleading arrest affidavits that relied on untrustworthy confidential informants, the lawsuit says. The police ignored exculpatory evidence, the lawsuit says.
The police tactics allowed confidential informants to "lie with impunity," allowing the informants to collect fees and skim drugs.
The lawsuit alleges that Crystal Bachicha, one of the two informants, was "a three-time convicted felon, a liar, a drug user, and had no history of providing reliable information" to police. Police turned a blind eye on a variety of Bachicha's personal vendettas against certain people she accused of drug dealing, the lawsuit says.
In fact, Bachicha had been accused of attempting to murder three of the people she accused of drug dealing. One of the individuals she tried to murder was her ex-boyfriend, Anthony Sandoval, who also dated Tyler.
Bachicha also accused Vialpando, who dated Bachicha's husband, Kevin Sandoval, of selling her drugs.
Two of the people were accused of selling drugs at a time when they couldn't have because they were already in jail. Others had alibis that police could have discovered if they had checked, the lawsuit says.
None of the 40 arrests that were made as part of the 2013 drug sting resulted in a drug-related conviction, the lawsuit says.
The illegal arrests harmed the plaintiff's reputations and careers, according to the lawsuit.
Garcia, for example, had been a home health care worker for the State of Colorado, and was taken off wait lists for Section 8 housing.
"She felt a crippling emotional pressure, which contributed to existing mental health issues. She began to use drugs, and eventually, lost her job and home, and was unable to regain custody of her son," the lawsuit says.
Charges against Garcia, who is homeless, were not dropped until 2014, the suit says.
After the charges, Vargas could no longer afford to live in Raton, N.M., where she had lived for 35 years, and had to move to Denver, where she had to rely on food stamps to survive, the lawsuit says.