Denver DEA office lost suspect in 'largest fentanyl seizure' on U.S. highway

Officers allowed alleged driver to leave in hopes of being led to dealers

Robert Tann
rtann@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/8/22

Denver DEA agents allowed a 26-year-old driver who was transporting 114 pounds of fentanyl powder toward Denver to continue driving after they seized the deadly drug. Officials later lost the suspect, who remains at large.

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Denver DEA office lost suspect in 'largest fentanyl seizure' on U.S. highway

Officers allowed alleged driver to leave in hopes of being led to dealers

Posted

Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Denver office allowed a 26-year-old driver who was transporting 114 pounds of fentanyl powder toward Denver to continue driving after they seized the deadly drug. Officials later lost the suspect, who remains at large, according to an arrest warrant for the driver that was first reported by the Denver Gazette.

David Alejandro Maldonado had initially agreed to work with law enforcement after Colorado State Patrol stopped him for weaving through traffic just east of the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 on June 18. State troopers found  114 pounds of fentanyl, packed in 48 one-kilo packages, hidden in two compartments underneath the seats, according to the Gazette. 

It was dubbed the the "largest fentanyl seizure on any U.S. highway" by  Brian Besser, special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Denver Field Division, during a July 6 press conference

Besser told reporters during the conference that law enforcement was "not asleep at the wheel" when combating the fentanyl crisis that led to 900 people dead in Colorado last year.

But he did not mention that the alleged driver was allowed to continue his trip following the seizure, or that he managed to evade law enforcement. 

According to the Gazette, after Maldonado agreed to cooperate with the DEA investigation, he was released by authorities to continue his drive — with a tracker on his car and without the fentanyl — in order to lead law enforcement to the believed kingpins of the criminal organization in South Bend, Indiana.

In a statement to the Gazette, the DEA said Maldonado "was offered the opportunity to work with the DEA to further the investigation. Subsequently after agreeing, he changed his mind and was able to (elude) law enforcement. He is now considered a fugitive.”

Clear Creek County District Judge Cynthia Jones signed an arrest warrant June 21, according to the Gazette, and Maldonado is wanted on $250,000 bond for two class 1 drug felonies involving unlawful distribution, sale and possession of a narcotic and for importing that substance into Colorado. 

Besser, along with  18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner, used the July 6 press conference to hail the recent efforts of both their departments to address fentanyl's continued presence in Colorado. 

Kellner's office completed a nearly 6-month-long investigation, which began in December 2021 with knowledge of "a single purchase" of fentanyl and ended with the indictments of eight people in May.

The investigation recovered about 200,000 fentanyl pills being recovered along with 9.4 pounds of heroin, a kilogram of cocaine and four guns, Kellner said. 

fentanyl, DEA, DA, Brian Besser, John Kellner

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