Multi-Year Investigation Leads to Indictment
26 Defendants and Seizure of Nearly 500,000 Counterfeit Pills Containing with Fentanyl
SAN DIEGO – A two-year investigation has led to the indictment of 26 defendants for international drug smuggling, drug trafficking, and related conspiracy offenses. One of the defendants, Raul Barajas-Padilla, appeared in federal court yesterday for an initial appearance on the indictment.
So far, 17 defendants have been arrested. Efforts are ongoing to apprehend the remaining defendants.
According to publicly filed documents, the Drug Enforcement Administration led the investigation into a drug-trafficking conspiracy extending from Sinaloa, Mexico into the United States.
Agents identified Mexico-based traffickers who coordinated shipments of counterfeit pharmaceutical pills containing fentanyl, powder fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine into the United States. These efforts yielded seizures of more than 478,000 counterfeit pharmaceutical pills containing fentanyl, as well as about 51 kilograms of methamphetamine, 10 kilograms of cocaine, 4 kilograms of powder fentanyl, and 4 kilograms of heroin. Agents also seized about $230,000 in assets.
According to the indictment, DEA agents also identified the distributors in the U.S.; the couriers who were responsible for transporting drugs; the people who managed stash houses; the people who smuggled the illicit proceeds back to Mexico; and other dealers.
“Drug cartels, such as the Sinaloa cartel, are driving addiction and overdose deaths in the United States,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Shelly S. Howe. “This extensive investigation demonstrates DEA’s resolve to hold drug dealers accountable for their destruction and to prevent massive amounts of fentanyl pills and other addictive drugs from being sold to our citizens.”
“This long-term investigation has resulted in the seizure of nearly half a million fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills plus additional quantities of fentanyl in powder form,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “As fentanyl continues to fuel the ongoing opioid epidemic and claim ever more lives, we will use every available resource to find, apprehend, and hold accountable those who seek to profit from it, no matter where they are.”
“The criminal investigation that led to this indictment is a great example of successful collaboration between multiple law enforcement agencies determined to prevent illegal narcotics from entering our communities,” said HSI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz. “HSI will continue working with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to bring to justice those who smuggle dangerous narcotics across our borders.”
United States Attorney’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations, San Diego Sheriff’s Department