A multi-agency probe into fentanyl trafficking in Fresno has snared the self-proclaimed “M30 King of Fresno,” federal authorities said Friday morning.
“The charges announced today and the seizure of illicit drugs demonstrate our combined commitment to prevent the flow of these dangerous drugs into our communities.” — U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert
“Many of the deaths and near-deaths in drug overdoses are caused by counterfeit pills that look like prescription pills, but are not and actually contain fentanyl,” said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert in a news release. “The user may be unaware that the pills contain fentanyl and can be deadly.
“The charges announced today and the seizure of illicit drugs demonstrate our combined commitment to prevent the flow of these dangerous drugs into our communities.”
According to court documents, the investigation began after a series of fentanyl-pill overdoses in the Fresno area.
These overdoses were caused by counterfeit oxycodone M30 tablets containing fentanyl, referred to on the street as “M30s.” Similar to authentic oxycodone M30 tablets, they are small, round, and light blue or green in color with “M” stamped on one side and “30” on the other.
“It was fentanyl overdoses that led to the development of the (multi-agency) Fentanyl Overdose Resolution Team . … Last year alone, they responded to 84 overdoses, with 34 of them resulting in death.” — Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Killer High,” aimed to search for the drug dealers believed to have supplied the toxic pills that caused the recent spike in fentanyl-related overdoses. The operation uncovered a large drug-trafficking ring led by Horacio Torrecillas Urias Jr., the self-proclaimed “M30 king of Fresno,” authorities said.
Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Tatum King joined Talbert in announcing the charges against Urias and 17 others for allegedly trafficking fentanyl powder, fentanyl pills, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
“Our agents work night and day to keep Fresno free from drugs like fentanyl that poison our children,” said King. “Today’s announcement of charges against 18 individuals involved in manufacturing and distributing this dangerous drug highlights HSI’s commitment our investigators have in partnership with prosecutors from the United States Attorney’s Office and local, state, and federal law enforcement to keep our community safe.”
The 17 co-Defendants
The other defendants are:
— Amadeo Sarabia Jr., Alma Garza, Juan Valencia, Jr., Alejandro Guzman, Erica Ramirez, Brayan Cruz, Jacob Valles, Cody Fyfe, Christian Harris-Blanchette, Marvin Carreno, Victor Yair Torrecillas-Urias, Oscar Jaramillo-Cortez, Alex Garcia, and Agustin Hernandez — all of whom reside in Fresno.
— Justin Dwayne Riddle, of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
— Abel Lozano and Henry Cox of Sanger.
Drugs Originated in Mexico
According to the criminal complaint, Torrecillas Urias Jr. obtained from sources in Mexico tens of thousands of counterfeit M30 fentanyl pills and large quantities of fentanyl powder, cocaine, and methamphetamine. He and the co-defendants then distributed the narcotics to drug dealers inside and outside of California.
During the investigation, federal, state, and local law enforcement agents conducted traffic stops, intercepted packages, and executed residential search warrants that resulted in the recovery of over 55,000 M30 fentanyl pills, 6 pounds of fentanyl powder, 10 pounds of methamphetamine, a pound of cocaine, 25 firearms, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
“The Fresno Police Department is proud to have participated in Operation Killer High,’” said Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama. “It was fentanyl overdoses that led to the development of the (multi-agency) Fentanyl Overdose Resolution Team . … Last year alone, they responded to 84 overdoses, with 34 of them resulting in death.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Justin J. Gilio and Laurel J. Montoya are prosecuting the case.