DENVER (CN) - Trinidad, Colo., police used a drug snitch with a vendetta who was so undependable that 40 busts they made with her were thrown out of court, four women claim in Federal Court.
Trinidad, pop. 10,000, is on Interstate 25 in south central Colorado, near the New Mexico line.
Four women sued the city and three of its police officers Monday, claiming innocent citizens were swept up in the late December 2013 drug busts that were based "almost exclusively on uncorroborated and untrustworthy information provided by confidential informants."
The 53-page lawsuit draws a bead on one of the two confidential informants (CIs) police used, Crystal Bachicha, who is not a party to this case.
"In fact, three of the people who CI Bachicha had accused of selling her drugs were individuals who CI Bachicha had been charged with attempting to murder," the complaint states.
The women claim that Trinidad police worked with Bachicha though they "knew that CI Bachicha was a three-time convicted felon, a liar, a drug user, and had no history of providing reliable information to the TPD. Yet, over and over again, the TPD took CI Bachicha at her word as she falsely accused various community members of selling drugs."
Lead plaintiff Raquel Garcia claims the police work was so shoddy as to be unconstitutional: that police "chose not to undertake meaningful efforts to corroborate the CIs' allegations, even when the TPD had ample reason to doubt the reliability of the CIs' accusations and even though readily available exculpatory evidence was at the TPD's disposal."
The complaint continues: "The procedures of the TPD during the course of the alleged 'controlled buys' made as part of the 'drug sting' provided an open opportunity for CIs to lie with impunity, to divert the TPD's buy money for themselves, to skim drugs for their own use, and to act on the basis of personal motives to frame innocent persons."
Garcia et al. claim that 40 people's heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine charges were dismissed because the two confidential informants' allegations were false, and that the Trinidad police sergeants never bothered to verify them.
"Moreover, the TPD intentionally omitted from the arrest warrants all of the myriad facts that cast serious doubt on CI Bachicha's credibility. In some cases, the TPD included fabricated inculpatory evidence in the arrest affidavits, all in an attempt to manufacture probable cause when none existed," the complaint states.
"Some of the individuals that she accused of selling drugs were individuals against whom she had a personal vendetta. In fact, three of the people who CI Bachicha had accused of selling her drugs were individuals who CI Bachicha had been charged with attempting to murder. One of the individuals she tried to murder was Anthony Sandoval, whom CI Bachicha used to be involved with, who also dated plaintiff Marilyn Tyler. Another of the individuals she attempted to murder was Christie Weatherholt, also known as Christie Ledbetter," the complaint states. It claims that Weatherholt had testified against Bachicha and her brother, who also was charged with attempted murder.
Attempted murder charges against Bachicha were dismissed but her brother was convicted "and is serving a lengthy prison sentence," according to the complaint.
"CI Bachicha's assertion that persons who earlier testified against her and her brother, including Christie Weatherholt, would be willing to sell her illegal drugs is not credible," the complaint states. "It also suggests that the lure of settling personal scores was an additional motivation for her activities as a CI."
Bachicha's claims began to unravel when she implicated two people who were in jail when she claimed they sold her drugs, according to the lawsuit - a fact the defendant police officers surely could have checked.
Bachicha also claimed to be in two places at once: "Defendants claimed that they were working with CI Bachicha and monitoring her as she sold drugs to plaintiff Vickie Vargas at the exact same time they claimed that they were working with CI Bachicha at an entirely different location to buy drugs from another individual," the complaint states.
The plaintiffs say Bachicha was paid for every alleged drug buy she made, and pocketed more than $3,000 from the charade.
They are represented by David Lane, with Kilmer, Lane & Newman in Denver, who did not immediately respond to a telephone request for comment.
The Trinidad City Manager's Office said the city does not comment on pending litigation.
The plaintiffs seek punitive damages for malicious prosecution, municipal liability and constitutional violations.
Named as defendants, in addition to the city, are police Sgt. Dets. Phil Martin and Arsenio Vigil, and police Officer Lauren Riddle.
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