SAGUACHE — A hitchhiker arrested February 14 on assault charges has a lengthy criminal history and has been in and out of trouble with the law since at least 2009-2010, records from Channel 7 News and The Washington Post show.
Julio Prieto, who was born in Mexico, is accused of assaulting a woman who picked him up hitchhiking along Highway 17. Court records show Prieto was convicted on a federal charge of conspiracy to distribute marijuana in Las Cruces, N.M. in 2010 after he and another individual attempted to transport marijuana from Mexico into Colorado. In 2011 he was sentenced to three years of supervised probation for the offense.
Prieto also was ordered to wear an ankle monitor and complete a substance abuse treatment program. He was forbidden to use drugs or alcohol while on probation. But after his arrest in Arapahoe County in 2012 for DUI/D, his probation was transferred to Colorado.
He was later arrested for traffic infractions in Jefferson County and theft and traffic violations in Aurora in 2013. When contacted by his probation officer regarding the additional charges and missing a probation meeting, Prieto admitted to using marijuana.
A judge then advised another six-month treatment program, but that is where Prieto’s trail seems to end temporarily. Prieto does not appear on the radar again until Sept. 15, when he made national news for trying to sneak over the border into Kazakhstan, Russia on Sept. 14. He told reporters he hoped to find a better life there.
Russia fined Prieto the equivalent of $30 in American money and flew him to New York at their government’s own expense. He could have faced two years in prison. At the time they deported him, court records showed he had recently lived in Englewood and Monte Vista.
The Rio Grande Sheriff’s Office reported last week he has been cited for traffic infractions there. Monte Vista Police also report run-ins with Prieto, but records describing the nature of those infractions were not readily available.
Prieto’s most recent arrest occurred when a traveler from the Durango area, headed down Highway 17 driving a new car, stopped to pick up a hitchhiker who said he was headed to Alamosa. As they approached the place where the man indicated he wished to be let out, the woman driver stopped and instead of getting out of the car Prieto, who later listed his address as Monte Vista, allegedly attacked her.
At one point, the victim said, she lost consciousness as Prieto tried to strangle her. She also suffered a black eye but was eventually able to fend him off and call 911.
When Saguache County Undersheriff James McCloskey arrived on scene accompanied by the Colorado State Patrol (CSP), he found the victim with her right eye swollen shut, abrasions on her neck and scratches on her face.
Prieto remains in the Saguache County Jail on an $85,000 bond. He has not yet been to court on his charges. For the full Channel 7 Denver article on Prieto, go to https:// www.thedenverchannel.com/news/ local-news/colorado-man-deported-back-to-us-after-caught-sneaking-into-russia-illegally