DENVER, Colo. (KDVR) – A June fentanyl recovery on a Colorado interstate may have been the largest highway bust in U.S. history. Drug Enforcement Administration and local prosecutors touted the Interstate 70 operation a few weeks later. But officials did not mention what happened to the man behind the wheel.
Fentanyl traffic bust, then an agreement
Colorado State Patrol stopped 27-year-old David Maldonado on June 18th for weaving, according to court documents. 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 in floor traps in his car, according to law enforcement. Maldonado later admitted that he was taking the drugs to South Bend, Indiana, according to Colorado State Patrol (CSP).
Health officials in South Bend confirmed with Nexstar’s KDVR that they’ve had a string of fentanyl deaths. South Bend police also said they were made aware of the fentanyl coming to the city sometime in the summer.
CSP took Maldonado into custody on several potential drug charges, but after speaking with a DEA agent, he agreed to cooperate with federal investigators. The day after that stop, and after agreeing to continue to South Bend, agents lost contact with Maldonado, and he apparently removed a tracker from his vehicle.
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, where the stop was made, but they never mentioned Maldonado broke away from the DEA.
“Sometimes law enforcement has to take risks in order to get a greater return,” KDVR legal analyst 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. “If they knew everything and didn’t need anything from this individual, they probably would’ve arrested him.”
KDVR 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.”
The agency told KDVR they would not comment further.