DENVER (KDVR) — It is called the biggest fentanyl bust on a U.S. highway. It happened back in June, right here in Colorado on Interstate 70 in Georgetown.
In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration and local prosecutors touted the operation a few weeks later. But it’s what they didn’t mention in that news conference that has the Problem Solvers asking some important questions.
Fentanyl traffic bust, then an agreement
According to court paperwork, back on June 18, Colorado State Patrol stopped 27-year-old David Maldonado on I-70 in Clear Creek County for weaving. The state trooper noticed Maldonado was “exceptionally nervous” and even lied about where he was coming from.
A K-9 search revealed 114 pounds of powdered fentanyl was found in floor traps in his car. Maldonado later admitted to CSP that he was taking the drugs to South Bend, Indiana.
Health officials in South Bend confirm with the Problem Solvers that they’ve had a string of fentanyl deaths. South Bend police also tell us they were made aware of the fentanyl coming to the city sometime in the summer.
CSP arrested Maldonado and hit him with several drug charges, but after speaking with a DEA agent, he agreed to cooperate with them. The day after that stop and after agreeing to continue to South Bend, Maldonado eluded the agents and even removed a tracker from his vehicle, as first reported by the Denver Gazette.
Seizure touted, but no mention of eluding
Local prosecutors, members of law enforcement and the DEA held a news conference back in July talking about several fentanyl seizures in Colorado, including the one from Clear Creek County, but they never mentioned Maldonado broke away from the DEA.
“Sometimes law enforcement has to take risks in order to get a greater return,” FOX31 legal expert Chris Decker said. He talked about how this situation is unfortunate but isn’t rare with drug investigations.
“We just don’t know. We can assume this was a calculated decision. Obviously, it didn’t go the way they had expected,” Decker said, adding: “If they knew everything and didn’t need anything from this individual, they probably would’ve arrested him.”
FOX31 reached out to the DEA and received this statement, in part: “Those drugs have remained in law enforcement’s possession ever since. DEA is relentlessly pursuing the individuals that were involved in the trafficking of the seized fentanyl and will continue to do so.”
When FOX31 asked follow up questions, they said they would not comment further.