The federal Drug Enforcement Administration admits that it has lost track of David Maldonado, a suspect found with over 100 lbs. of fentanyl in his possession, after he slipped his tracker and his DEA tail.
Back in July, an unnamed Colorado State Patrol trooper pulled Maldonado over for weaving through traffic. Though the trooper informed Maldonado at the time that he would give him only a warning, the trooper said that the suspect continued to look and act "exceptionally nervous."
Shortly thereafter, while Maldonado visited a convenience store restroom, drug-sniffing dogs reportedly detected the presence of drugs in Maldonado's vehicle. When the trooper searched the vehicle, he discovered 48 packages of fentanyl powder, weighing 114 lbs. total, hidden in trap compartments. Reports claim it was the single largest fentanyl bust on a U.S. highway in history.
During a subsequent interrogation, Maldonado, 27, allegedly admitted that he was transporting the drugs as part of a larger drug trafficking operation and that he was headed to South Bend, Indiana, to deliver the now-confiscated fentanyl stash. Maldonado then supposedly promised that he would cooperate with the DEA to help nab the operation kingpins in South Bend.
However, at some unknown point during the trip to Indiana, Maldonado reportedly managed to evade the DEA agents following him. He also supposedly located the tracking device that had been placed on his vehicle and somehow dislodged it. He is now considered a fugitive wanted for unlawful distribution of more than 225 grams of a controlled substance and introducing that substance into the state of Colorado, both of which are felonies.
The DEA has publicly stated that it is searching "relentlessly" for Maldonado and any other individuals who might be involved in this drug trafficking operation. Maldonado is a U.S. citizen who grew up in West Liberty, Iowa, though he does have family in Mexico. It is unclear whether he has any prior convictions.
CPS blames the DEA for the entire "debacle."
"DEA was working with us and they made a deal with the driver," said CPS Master Trooper Gary Cutler. "He ran on them after they worked the case, and that was their debacle."
"We’ve got a record amount of fentanyl involved here, in fact, enough fentanyl to kill everyone in the state of Colorado," added Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI assistant director and a current NBC News national security contributor. "The individual who was delivering that amount of fentanyl is now in the wind. And it looks like there are no other bad guys in custody, as far as we know. So that is a large-scale failure."
The Denver Gazette actually reported on Maldonado's disappearance back in early July, but the story has not been widely reported until this week when it aired on NBC News.