Suspect Got Away After Huge Fentanyl Seizure

He promised to lead DEA agents to drug kingpins but removed tracking device
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 4, 2022 5:46 PM CDT
DEA Lost Track of Drug Mule After Huge Fentanyl Bust
The 114 pounds of fentanyl seized from Maldonado's vehicle.   (Colorado State Patrol)

In July, Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Colorado boasted about seizing 114 pounds of pure fentanyl in the biggest-ever seizure of the deadly synthetic opioid on a US highway—but they were quieter about what happened to the alleged drug mule. The suspect, 27-year-old David Maldonado, agreed to cooperate with federal agents and help them arrest drug kingpins, but he gave them the slip after removing the tracking device on his vehicle, NBC reports. Maldonado, who was busted after a state trooper in Colorado noticed he was "exceptionally nervous" during a traffic stop on Interstate 70, had promised to lead law enforcement to traffickers in South Bend, Indiana. He said he was transporting the fentanyl to the city from California.

After agreeing to cooperate, Maldonado—a US citizen who grew up Iowa—was allowed to continue his journey, apparently without the drugs, but he "eluded DEA surveillance and removed the tracker from his vehicle," an affidavit states, per the Denver Gazette. He is wanted on two felony drug-related charges. The US Marshals says its Colorado Violent Offender Task Force is seeking Maldonado.

Former FBI assistant director Frank Figliuzzi tells NBC that the DEA is probably conducting an internal investigation. "We’ve got a record amount of fentanyl involved here, in fact, enough fentanyl to kill everyone in the state of Colorado," he says. "The individual who was delivering that amount of fentanyl is now in the wind. And it looks like there are no other bad guys in custody, as far as we know, so that is a large-scale failure." (More Drug Enforcement Administration stories.)

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