- Associated Press - Thursday, January 8, 2015

TRINIDAD, Colo. (AP) - Two women who were arrested and later cleared in a drug sting case in Trinidad are suing the city and two police detectives, accusing them of not checking out allegations from an unreliable informant.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado filed the lawsuit on behalf of Danika Gonzales and Felicia Valdez in federal court in Denver on Thursday. They were among 40 people arrested in the December 2103 sting based on information provided by two informants including Crystal Bachicha.

Both women lost their jobs after their arrests, and Valdez, who had worked as a teacher’s aide, also lost her family’s federally subsidized housing as a result. Charges against them were dropped in June 2014.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and asks a judge to declare that the city’s alleged drug sting practices are unconstitutional.

The lawsuit alleges that Trinidad police use informants who are able to use their position to settle scores by framing innocent people and use money intended to buy drugs from suspects for their own use because of lax oversight. It also claims that detectives Phil Martin and Arsenio Vigil did not thoroughly vet allegations from Bachicha, a three-time felon, and misled the court about the evidence that justified arresting the two women.

Gonzales once served as Bachicha’s probation officer, and Bachicha alleged that Gonzales sold her drugs in the courthouse hallway. The lawsuit faults police for not explaining how that would have been possible in a building with constant video surveillance.

According to the lawsuit, Bachicha also implicated three people she and her brother had once been accused of trying to kill in the drug sting. Murder charges filed against her were dismissed, but her brother was convicted and sent to prison in those cases, according to the lawsuit.

The Trinidad Police Department referred questions to City Attorney Les Downs, who said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

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