DEA busts drug ring tied to Sinaloa cartel: 110K fake fentanyl pills, cocaine, $450,000 seized

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) –  A drug trafficking ring connected to the Sinaloa drug cartel was busted after an eight-month investigation resulted in the seizure of more than 110,000 fake prescription pills that were laced with fentanyl. Authorities believe the majority of the pills were made in Mexico.

According to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s office, the organization also seized 6 kilos of meth, 8 pounds of heroin, 11 kilos of cocaine and about $450,000 dollars.

In addition, investigators found 28 firearms, multiple hand grenades, high capacity magazines and several sets of body armor.

A spokesperson for the DEA Denver division said this organization was preparing for battle.

News Release from DEA Denver Division:

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Denver Field Division, the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), and the 18th Judicial District announced the indictment of 19 individuals and arrest of 10 individuals as a part of an investigation into a poly-drug trafficking organization operating in the greater Denver area of Colorado.

In April 2021, law enforcement authorities initiated an investigation into a drug trafficking organization responsible for trafficking a combination of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, has been the primary driver of the overdose epidemic across the United States. In recent weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a record 100,306 drug-related overdoses for the 12-month period ending in April of 2021. 

In addition to the large quantities of fentanyl seized, the investigation also found the organization in possession of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, numerous firearms, and US currency.

“This investigation is not about the amount of drugs seized or number of people arrested,” said DEA Denver Acting Special Agent in Charge David Olesky. “This investigation demonstrates and corroborates the alarming trend in counterfeit prescription pills laced with fentanyl flooding our streets, as well as the continuing nexus between drug trafficking and violent crime impacting our communities.”

DEA Denver Division began this investigation with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, including Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Denver Police Department, Arvada Police Department, Commerce City Police Department, and Homeland Security Investigations.

The grand jury found that defendant Saul Ramon Rivera-Beltran, 30, of Thornton, Colorado, coordinated the transportation of the illegal drugs from Mexico and their subsequent distribution in Colorado. The counterfeit prescription pills laced with fentanyl are suspected of being manufactured in Mexico and then smuggled into the United States across the Southwest Border.

“These indictments are an example of how my Organized Crime Unit is able to prosecute those who traffic illegal drugs in our communities and neighborhoods,” said District Attorney John Kellner. “These are people who peddle deadly substances. And where we find the illegal drug trade, we usually find illegal weapons. We will continue to work with local, state and federal partners to prosecute these criminal organizations.”

The investigation resulted in the seizure of:

  • 110,000 counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl
  • 11.5 kilograms of cocaine
  • 6 kilograms of methamphetamine
  • 8.5 pounds of heroin
  • 28 firearms, of which 6 were stolen
  • 3 hand grenades
  • Multiple high capacity magazines including one 200 round “drum” magazine
  • Armor piercing ammunition
  • Body armor with rifle rated ballistic armor plates
  • $450,000 in U.S. currency

Charges range from racketeering and conspiracy under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act to drug distribution and money laundering. The top counts are Class 2 felonies.

The filing of criminal charges or an indictment is merely a formal accusation that an individual committed a crime. Each defendant should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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