Man arrested in large Colorado fentanyl seizure last month escapes

DENVER – A man who was arrested last month on I-70 in what Colorado State Patrol and the Drug Enforcement Administration touted as the largest U.S. highway fentanyl seizure in history remains at large after he ditched agents while they were tracking a “controlled delivery” they asked him to make following his arrest.

The arrest and escape of David Maldonado, 26, was first reported last week by the Denver Gazette. Denver7 obtained the warrant for his arrest from a court administrator on Monday morning.

The news of the June 18 arrest was sent out to Denver journalists by a CSP spokesperson on July 1. At the time, the spokesperson said the arrest and seizure involved 114 pounds of “pure” fentanyl – something that was reiterated by DEA Denver Special Agent in Charge Brian Besser last week when he and other officials announced a separate fentanyl grand jury indictment. Each called the seizure the largest on a U.S. highway in history.

“In my opinion, bulk fentanyl quantities like this hold the caliber of a weapon of mass destruction type concern,” Besser said.

According to an arrest warrant signed by a Clear Creek County judge on June 21 and an affidavit submitted by a CSP trooper in support of the warrant, the man suspected of trafficking the fentanyl was arrested and escaped from law enforcement over a two-day span.

Just after 10:30 a.m. on June 18, a CSP trooper pulled Maldonado over on the eastbound lanes of I-70 near the Bakerville exit for weaving outside his lane. The trooper wrote in the affidavit that Maldonado seemed “exceptionally nervous” despite being told he was only getting a warning and not a ticket.

The next red flag, according to the trooper, was that Maldonado lied about being in Grand Junction for the prior week visiting family, though the trooper learned the vehicle’s license plate had been scanned in southern California around 24 hours beforehand.

The trooper also discovered Maldonado had bought the vehicle on May 10, just more than a month beforehand. He told the trooper he had never been to California, then said he had been in Utah and nowhere west of there. But his car was mostly empty save for a blanket and gas station snacks, according to the affidavit, and he could not say where in Utah he had been. He chalked his nervousness up to having to “use the restroom really bad,” the trooper wrote in the affidavit.

Maldonado initially did not give consent for the trooper to search the vehicle. But after the trooper let him drive to the next exit three miles away to use the restroom, Maldonado agreed to let a K-9 perform an exterior sniff of the car.

The dog detected drugs, according to the affidavit, and a subsequent search of the vehicle found two traps inside of its floor. Inside those traps, according to the affidavit, were 48 separate packages containing suspected drugs. A preliminary test of four different packages all turned up positive for fentanyl powder, according to the affidavit. They weighted a total of 114.36 pounds.

Maldonado was taken into custody and agreed to speak with law enforcement without an attorney, the trooper wrote in the affidavit. It says Maldonado admitted to having the drugs in his vehicle and said that he was supposed to take them to South Bend, Indiana.

He also said he had at least once before trafficked drugs with a vehicle, and that he had picked up the latest package in California.

Court records show Maldonado was arrested for investigation of two class 1 drug felonies: distribution of a controlled substance of 225 grams or more, and importation of a controlled substance into Colorado – special offender.

But after he was interviewed, he was released to the custody of the DEA’s Denver bureau after agreeing to cooperate with them, according to the affidavit. The affidavit says he agreed to deliver the drugs “in hopes to identify additional individuals in the criminal organization.”

But the day after his arrest, on June 19, he fled from agents, though it was not clear where he was able to escape from them.

“Maldonado eluded DEA surveillance and removed the tracker from his vehicle,” the affidavit states. “Maldonado is no longer cooperating with Denver DEA and their investigation.”

The affidavit also says that Maldonado is a “proven flight risk” and has family in Mexico. He is from the Iowa City, Iowa, area. The warrant for his arrest was issued two days after he was able to get away from agents.

“This continues to be an active investigation and therefore we are unable to comment further at this time,” said Denver DEA spokesperson R. Steve Kotecki in a statement Monday.

Maldonado is described as 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes, and tattoos on his left arm, left pectoral muscle and right arm.

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