PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A U.S. magistrate judge on Friday ordered three men detained on drug trafficking charges accusing them of supplying illicit fentanyl linked to a fatal overdose in Oregon, prosecutors said.
A federal complaint charges Manuel Velasquez-Estrejo, 38, Jorge Rivera-Nunez, 27, and Dennis Palma-Hurbina, 23, with conspiring to possess and possessing with intent to distribute fentanyl. According to the U.S. attorney’s office in Oregon, the men are Honduran nationals.
Their attorneys didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
On Wednesday, a sheriff’s deputy from the Washington Interagency Narcotics Team responded to the scene of the fatal overdose in Portland.
The victim’s adult son told investigators he and his mother had recently purchased around 100 fentanyl pills for $200 from a person later determined to be Velasquez-Estrejo, prosecutors said.
According to prosecutors, Velasquez-Estrejo was later arrested with about 1,000 multicolored fentanyl pills and 2 ounces (57 grams) of powdered fentanyl.
He was staying at the time with Rivera-Nunez and Palma-Hurbina at a Portland motel where investigatos found more than 6 pounds (2.7 kilograms) of powdered fentanyl, more than 11,000 counterfeit Oxycodone pills containing fentanyl, and half a pound (0.23 kilograms) of methamphetamine, prosecutors said.
Like many other states, Oregon has grappled with a surge in opioid overdose deaths fueled by fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin and can be lethal in even small doses.
Fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic that is cheap to produce, was developed to treat intense pain from ailments like cancer. But illicit use of the substance has exploded, often sold as-is or used to lace other narcotics.
Two-thirds of the 107,000 overdose deaths in 2021 were attributed to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.