Federal Agents Arrest 4 Honduran Men in Major Fentanyl Drug Bust, Seize Over 1.6 Million Potentially Lethal Doses

Kos Temenes
By Kos Temenes
May 14, 2024US News
Federal Agents Arrest 4 Honduran Men in Major Fentanyl Drug Bust, Seize Over 1.6 Million Potentially Lethal Doses
Heroin and fentanyl pressed into pill form. (Courtesy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration)

Federal agents in Seattle have arrested four men in connection with a drug bust involving huge amounts of fentanyl.

In addition to the arrests, the agents seized over 16 kilograms of fentanyl powder and tens of thousands of fentanyl pills, U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman confirmed, in what was described as a “fast-moving investigation.”

“This quick work by federal and local law enforcement will save lives with 16 kilos of fentanyl powder and tens of thousands of pills taken off the street,” said U.S. Attorney Gorman in a press release.

“With deadly fentanyl overdoses occurring at a rate of two a day in King County alone, we are focused at getting as much fentanyl as we can off the streets and out of circulation.”

The investigation began in late March. Undercover agents had set up initial drug deals with the traffickers, which culminated in the arrests and the seizure of the narcotics on May 9. The four defendants appeared in U.S. District Court in Seattle the next day.

According to Special Agent David F. Reames, the DEA agent in charge of the operation, the amount of fentanyl seized amounted to a huge number of lethal doses of the drug.

“Fentanyl traffickers threaten the lives of our community for profit, and this amount of fentanyl represented over 1.6 million potentially lethal doses,” he said in the press release.

“The Drug Enforcement Administration and our partners work tirelessly to stop those who would bring this tragedy to our communities and this case is another example of the power of teamwork to make us all safer.”

The four men arrested are all Honduran nationals who had been living in Washington state. They are Elvin Irias-Escoto, 22; Selvin Ponce-Maradiaga, 26; Sammy Maradiaga-Escoto, 20; and Hector Rosales-Martinez, 24.

During the operation, the undercover agents working with Homeland Security Investigations posed as well-funded drug customers. The deal to purchase multiple kilos of fentanyl was then set up after Irias-Escoto agreed to supply the drugs.

The men were kept under surveillance by agents from DEA Tacoma, who observed Irias-Escoto and his co-conspirators pack several boxes, a backpack, and a cooler into a car at a Renton apartment complex.

The four men then headed to the Bellingham area where the drug deal had been set up in a shopping center parking lot. Upon meeting with the undercover agents, the men went on to show them two boxes which contained 15 packages of fentanyl powder, each weighing around a kilo. The agents also seized a firearm the defendants had in their car.

Agents then searched the Renton apartment, where they seized an additional kilo of fentanyl powder, as well as 60,000 fentanyl pills and multiple boxes of ammunition.

According to Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest, the operation highlights the significance of collaborative efforts between HSI and law enforcement agencies.

“This joint investigation exemplifies the dedication and coordination necessary to combat the scourge of illicit drugs in our communities. We remain committed to working together to disrupt criminal networks and protect the safety and well-being of our citizens,” he said in the release.

Mr. Hammer’s statement was echoed by Tobin Meyer, Commander of the Skagit County Interlocal Drug Enforcement Unit (SCIDEU).

“I cannot overstate the gravity of this fentanyl seizure and the pivotal role of our collaborative partnerships,” he said.

“Through unified efforts, we send a clear message to drug traffickers: we will relentlessly pursue you, disrupt your operations, and safeguard our communities from the devastating impact of illicit substances.”

The opioid epidemic continues to claim thousands of lives each year. Since 2018, around a quarter-of-a-million people in the United States have died as a result of fentanyl overdoses. Fentanyl is linked to almost three-quarters of all drug overdoses in the United States.

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