New details have been released on the largest Fentanyl bust in Arizona history.
Earlier in the week, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Tempe Police seized 30,000 pills, and arrested an alleged drug dealer linked to a Mexican drug cartel.
DEA agents and Tempe Police allegedly caught 27-year-old Rosendo Ortiz, Jr. with the pills. Officials said Ortiz, Jr. also had several guns, thousands of dollars in cash, and admitted he had been dealing the drugs on Valley streets for the last two months.
"The investigation itself targeted a Sinaloa cell that's operating here in Arizona," said Doug Coleman, Special Agent In Charge with the Drug Enforcement Agency.
During the investigation, DEA agents and local law enforcement made the biggest Fentanyl bust in the state's history. Agents watched as a courier allegedly dropped the drugs off to Ortiz, Jr., in a parking lot near 91st Avenue and Thomas.
As Ortiz, Jr. was driving home, an officer pulled him over for a minor traffic violation. During a search of his car, agents found 30,000 pills and a loaded gun. Ortiz, Jr.'s house was also searched, netting 300 more pills, a rifle, another pistol, and $15,000 in bundled cash.
Each Fentanyl pill goes for anywhere between $15 to $30 on the street.
"So easily, over a million dollar's worth of dope right there in one seizure," said Coleman.
Fentanyl has become one of the deadliest pharmaceuticals the DEA has to deal with. It is an opiate commonly prescribed by doctors to advanced cancer patients to treat crippling pain. It's nearly 100 times more potent than morphine, and 50 times more potent than heroin.
"The Mexican cartels have realized they can manufacture Fentanyl for cheaper than heroin," said Coleman. "It's a stronger product, and people like it more, so they're flooding our market with Fentanyl."
Coleman said cartels can import the ingredients from pharmaceutical companies in China, then make the pills themselves in Mexico. The product is easy to get across the border.
"It's not incredibly difficult to smuggle 30,000 tablets," said Coleman. "They fit in a box in a little bit bigger than a shoe box, but they fit in a box."
The investigation is still ongoing - as DEA agents continue to track the Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel's affiliates in Arizona. Meanwhile, Ortiz, Jr. is now facing eight felony counts, including drugs, gang, weapons and money laundering charges.More