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California Man Charged with Trafficking Over 70,000 Fentanyl Pills from Mexico into Evansville

— October 24, 2023

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, as little as two milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal.

EVANSVILLE – A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Javier Moreno-Garibaldi, 37, of Salinas, California, with distribution of fentanyl.

According to court documents, in May of 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration began an investigation into a-Mexico based drug trafficking organization operating in Mexicali, Mexico, trafficking large quantities of fentanyl and methamphetamine. During the investigation, law enforcement officers purchased or intercepted thousands of fentanyl pills shipped or transported by the drug traffickers into Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky.

As part of the investigation, undercover law enforcement officers arranged to purchase 100,000 fentanyl pills and 50 pounds of methamphetamine from a supplier based in Mexicali, Mexico. On August 31, 2023, the Mexican supplier told the undercover officer that his drug courier was leaving from Calexico, California, enroute to Evansville with 50,000 fentanyl pills in exchange for $100,000. The next day the supplier stated that the courier would now be delivering 60,000 pills to an Evansville hotel for $120,000 and a $2,500 delivery fee. For the next three days, the Mexican supplier and the undercover officer exchanged messages about the arrival of the courier and how to handle counting the money and the pills. The supplier indicated that the courier would arrive at the Evansville hotel at 10:00 am on September 4, 2023.

At 10:07 a.m., September 4, 2023, the Mexican supplier told the undercover officer that his courier would be driving a gray Honda, and later provided the courier’s cell phone number. At 10:30 a.m., a gray Honda SUV with California plates arrived at the hotel. At 10:31, the undercover officer called the number the supplier provided for the courier and arranged to meet the courier at the hotel. The undercover officer met the gray Honda in the hotel parking lot, and got into the front seat with the driver, later identified as Javier Moreno-Garibaldi. The undercover officer gave Moreno-Garibaldi the $2,500 delivery fee, and Moreno-Garibaldi stated that the pills were in a dog kennel box in the back seat. Moreno-Garibaldi agreed to go with the undercover officer to a safehouse to count the pills and the $120,000 owed for the drugs. Moreno-Garibaldi put the dog kennel box of pills into the undercover officer’s car and was arrested without incident. A search of the box revealed five separate bags containing a large amount of small blue pills marked “M” on one side and “30” on the other, apparent counterfeit “M-30” pills containing fentanyl. The field weight of the seized pills was 15.7 pounds (7.064 kilograms), or approximately 70,000 pills.

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Photo by Julie Viken from Pexels

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, as little as two milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal, depending on a person’s body size, tolerance, and past usage. One kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people. Last year, six out of ten illegal fentanyl tablets seized and analyzed by the DEA contained a potentially lethal dose of the drug.

“Fentanyl is such a deadly drug that just one counterfeit pill can be fatal. Every death, overdose, and addition fueled by these fentanyl pills is devastating to our families, neighbors, and friends,” said Zachary A. Myers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. “We know these drugs are flooding into our communities in astonishing quantities because of the Mexican cartels, aided by overseas chemical suppliers and traffickers and dealers nationwide. These criminals act with utter disregard for human life and must be held accountable. Our office will continue to work with our outstanding partners in DEA, Evansville Police Department, Vanderburgh County Drug Task Force, and Owensboro Police Department to prioritize investigation and prosecution of the members of these criminal enterprises.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration, Evansville Police Department, Vanderburgh County Drug Task Force, and Owensboro Police Department investigated this case. If convicted, Moreno-Garibaldi faces up to life in federal prison and a fine of up to $10,000,000. A federal district court judge will determine the actual sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

U.S. Attorney Myers thanked Assistant United States Attorney Lauren M. Wheatley, who is prosecuting this case.

One Pill Can Kill: Avoid pills bought on the street because One Pill Can Kill. Fentanyl has now become the leading cause of death in the United States. Fentanyl is a highly potent opioid that drug dealers dilute with cutting agents to make counterfeit prescription pills that appear to be Oxycodone, Percocet, Xanax, and other drugs. Fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl are usually shaped and colored to look like pills sold at pharmacies. For example, fake prescription pills known as “M30s” imitate Oxycodone obtained from a pharmacy, but when sold on the street the pills routinely contain fentanyl. These pills are usually round tablets and often light blue in color, though they may be in different shapes and a rainbow of colors. They often have “M” and “30” imprinted on opposite sides of the pill. Do not take these or any other pills bought on the street – they are routinely fake and poisonous, and you won’t know until it’s too late.

An indictment or criminal complaint are merely allegations, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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