Four Hondurans Charged With Trafficking Enough Fentanyl To Kill 1.6 Million People

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John Oyewale Contributor
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Four Hondurans living in Washington state attempted Thursday to sell enough fentanyl to potentially kill 1.6 million people to undercover agents posing as wealthy drug customers, federal prosecutors claimed Friday.

Elvin Irias-Escoto, 22, and three alleged co-conspirators were arrested while reportedly trying to supply Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents with kilos of fentanyl powder and pills in a drug trafficking deal struck in late March, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington said in a statement. Agents from the State Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) office in Tacoma working with the HSI agents surveiled the suspects as they allegedly prepared to transport the drugs from Renton to the HSI agents in Bellingham.

The agents also arrested Selvin Ponce-Maradiaga, 26, Sammy Maradiaga-Escoto, 20, and Hector Rosales-Martinez, 24, the three alleged co-conspirators, according to the statement. The agents seized “15 packages of just over 15 kilograms of fentanyl powder” and a firearm from the suspects, as well as “60,000 fentanyl pills, another kilogram of fentanyl powder and multiple boxes of ammunition” from the Renton apartments of Irias-Escoto and Ponce-Maradiaga, the statement revealed.

“[T]his amount of fentanyl represented over 1.6 million potentially lethal doses,” David F. Reames, Special Agent in Charge, DEA Seattle Field Division, said, according to the statement.

All four suspects faced charges Friday in the U.S. District Court in Seattle, according to the statement. (RELATED: Jury Convicts Fmr President Of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernández For Helping Import More Than 400 Tons Of Cocaine To US)

Prosecutors described the operation as a fast-moving investigation involving the HSI, the DEA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, among others.

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

Praising the dedication and collaboration involved in the investigation, Tobin Meyer, Commander of the Skagit County Interlocal Drug Enforcement Unit (SCIDEU) 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.”

A federal jury in Manhattan convicted former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández of conspiring to import tons of cocaine and committing weapons offenses in April 2024, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Juan Orlando Hernández abused his position as President of Honduras to operate the country as a narco-state where violent drug traffickers were allowed to operate with virtual impunity, and the people of Honduras and the United States were forced to suffer the consequences,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland partly said.

Hernández is reportedly expected to be sentenced June 26, 2024.