With more than 150 people dying daily in America from overdoses related to synthetic opioids, Central Valley leaders are stepping up efforts to put fentanyl traffickers behind bars.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Fresno, U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert said that over the last 20 years, he has seen the death and destruction caused by local drug dealers go “from bad to worse.”
Press Conference Recap
Joining Talbert in pledging to team up in an effort to take more fentanyl traffickers off the street: Acting DEA Special Agent in Charge Bob P. Beris, Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni, and Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp.
“Most kids don’t know how dangerous fentanyl is or that it’s used in counterfeit pills made to look like legitimate prescription medication,” Talbert explained.
Said Smittcamp: “This is not a political R and D or red and blue problem. This is an American crisis.”
Central Valley’s Greatest Threat to Public Health
“Fentanyl is the greatest drug threat to public health and safety in the Central Valley,” said Beris. “The substantial amount of fentanyl-laced pills and powder seized in these investigations has undoubtedly saved lives. DEA remains committed to holding accountable those who distribute this poison that wreaks havoc in our communities.”
One reason that fentanyl is so deadly is that even a tiny amount can kill someone, according to the DEA. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that drugs may contain deadly levels of fentanyl, and you wouldn’t be able to see it, taste it, or smell it. It is nearly impossible to tell if drugs have been laced with fentanyl unless you use fentanyl test strips.
Watch: Protect Yourself From a Fatal Fentanyl Overdose
‘Zero Bail’ Trafficker, Selma Man Indicted
During the news conference, Talbert said that a federal grand jury had indicted Pedro Miranda-Muro, 23 of Los Angeles, charging him with trafficking 400 grams and more of fentanyl and 100 grams and more of heroin, as well as other offenses.
Miranda-Muro became the poster boy for Valley drug traffickers after he was let out of Fresno County Jail on zero bail earlier this month. Community outrage ensued and Fresno County Superior Court rescinded its COVID-era zero bail policy. The move was met with praise from the law enforcement community. And, Miranda-Muro was re-arrested.
A separate criminal complaint alleges that Uriel Sotelo-Patino, 35 of Selma, possessed with intent to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl. According to court documents, law enforcement agents seized more than 17 kilograms of fentanyl-laced pills and a pound of heroin during searches of residences associated with Sotelo-Patino.
Watch: I’m a Fresno Mom Who Lost Her Son to Fentanyl
The trafficking charges in each of these cases carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison, and a fine of up to $10 million.
The case against Pedro Miranda-Muro is the result of an investigation by the DEA, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, and the Fresno County DA’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly A. Sanchez is prosecuting the case.
The case against Sotelo-Patino involved the DEA, the Clovis Police Department, the Selma Police Department, and the Fresno County DA’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Gilio is the prosecutor.
Watch: A Legacy for Fentanyl Victim Who Died Before Clovis North Graduation