12 Members of Drug Trafficking Organization Indicted for Distributing Counterfeit Oxycodone Pills Containing Fentanyl, Laundering Proceeds
PORTLAND, OR (STL.News) 12 people are facing federal charges for conspiring to distribute counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl in the Pacific Northwest, and laundering millions in drug proceeds.
According to court documents, beginning in fall 2021, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents based in Portland began investigating a drug trafficking organization led by Luis Antonio Beltran Arrendondo, 32, of Las Vegas, who was suspected of importing counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl and heroin from Mexico into California, and transporting it to Oregon and Washington State for distribution. Arrendondo formerly resided in Oregon, but later relocated to Las Vegas with his significant other and accomplice Jacqueline Paola Rodriguez Barrientos, 41. Barrientos was also indicted as the chief money launderer for the Arrendondo organization.
As the investigation continued, agents interdicted couriers transporting fentanyl pills and heroin to Oregon. They executed search warrants in Hillsboro, Portland, Tualatin, and Wilsonville, Oregon; Fresno and Hawaiian Gardens, California; and Las Vegas. In total, these enforcement actions resulted in the seizure of approximately 115,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills suspected to contain fentanyl and stamped “M/30”, 41 pounds of methamphetamine, and more than 57 pounds of heroin.
A parallel financial investigation revealed that Barrientos laundered money generated by the Arrendondo organization through the Mazatlán Beauty Salon in Tualatin, Oregon and by buying real estate. The real estate purchases were made with cashier’s checks funded by large cash deposits. Currency Transaction Reports generated by several banks showed that Barrientos made frequent cash deposits ranging from $10,000 to more than $373,000 into accounts held in her name or the name of her salon. These deposits totaled more than $3.5 million during a 9-month period in 2021. Since February 2021, members of the Arrendondo organization purchased a total of nine residential properties in Oregon and Nevada with an estimated total value of more than $4.6 million. All nine properties were purchased outright with no mortgages.
On February 17, 2022, DEA agents arrested Arrendondo and Barrientos at their Las Vegas residence. Agents found and seized two luxury vehicles, several loose receipts documenting high-end retail purchases, credit card statements documenting more than $16,000 spent on tickets to attend a professional boxing match, and other evidence memorializing the couple’s high-end lifestyle.
On March 15, 2022, Arrendondo and Barrientos made their initial appearances in federal court. Both are in custody pending trial. All ten of Arrendondo and Barrientos’ co-conspirators have been arrested and are also pending trial in the District of Oregon.
U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug of the District of Oregon made the announcement.
This case was investigated by DEA with assistance from the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS:CI), Tigard Police Department, and Oregon State Police. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon.
An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Opioid abuse affects communities across the nation. Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that there were more than 100,000 drug overdoses in the U.S. during the 12-month period ending April 2021, an increase of nearly 29% from the previous 12-month period. Synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) accounted for more than three quarters of these deaths. Drug overdose continues to be the leading cause of injury or death in the U.S.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. A 3-milligram dose of fentanyl—a few grains of the substance—is enough to kill an average adult male. The availability of illicit fentanyl in Oregon has caused a dramatic increase in overdose deaths throughout the state.