18 people in alleged fentanyl trafficking ring in Fresno face federal charges

After an investigation sparked by dozens of fentanyl overdoses in the Fresno area, the suspected leader of a drug trafficking ring and 17 others have been arrested and charged by federal authorities, prosecutors said Friday.

Horacio Torrecillas Urias Jr., the self-proclaimed “M30 King of Fresno,” and the others were charged last month with trafficking fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine powder and pills, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District from California.

The investigation into the ring began after a series of overdoses last fall involving counterfeit oxycodone tablets, commonly labeled “M30”, which contained fentanyl.

“Similar to genuine M30 oxycodone tablets, they are small, round, and light blue or green in color with an ‘M’ debossed on one side and ’30’ on the other,” the US attorney’s office said.

According to the criminal complaint, Torrecillas obtained tens of thousands of counterfeit M30 pills and large quantities of other drugs from sources in Mexico, then distributed them with his co-defendants to dealers in California and elsewhere.

Local, state and federal agencies, including the Fresno Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, United States Postal Inspection Service and Department of Homeland Security, participated in the investigation.

“During the investigation, federal, state and local law enforcement officers conducted traffic stops, intercepted packages and executed residential search warrants which resulted in the recovery of more than 55,000 fentanyl M30 pills. , 6 pounds of fentanyl powder, 10 pounds of methamphetamine, one pound of cocaine, 25 firearms and hundreds of cartridges,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.

In one case, an investigation into overdoses by two minors last October led to the arrest of Uriel Diaz-Santos, suspected of supplying the pills. During a search of Diaz-Santos’ phone, investigators determined that Torrecillas may have supplied the pills to Diaz-Santos, according to the federal complaint.

In December, investigators searched a phone found at the scene of another overdose and discovered conversations between the person who had overdosed, Torrecillas and another person, Brayan Cruz, in which they discussed a sale of drugs, prosecutors said.

Following busts from other dealers, investigators said they uncovered other conversations involving Cruz, Torrecillas and other dealers negotiating sales, some in private messaging apps on social media sites.

Investigators said they obtained a wiretap warrant for Torrecillas’ cellphone in January. In an intercept, they said, he asked another person to drop off a package at the post office to be sent to New Mexico. The package contained 3 pounds of methamphetamine.

Over the course of several weeks, investigators said they intercepted several conversations between Torrecillas and others negotiating the sale, purchase and distribution of thousands of pills and other drugs.

“Fentanyl is a real danger, not just to our community, not just to our state, but to our nation,” Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said in a news release. “It was fentanyl overdoses that led to the development of the Fentanyl Overdose Resolution Team (FORT) here in Fresno. Last year alone, they responded to 84 overdoses, 34 of which resulted in death.

The defendants each face prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life and fines of $1 million to $10 million, prosecutors said.

Los Angeles Times

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