Questions Surround Multnomah County Sheriff’s Largest-Ever Fentanyl Bust

The alleged ringleader walked out of jail Thursday without being charged with a crime.

Fentanyl dealing in downtown Portland. (Blake Benard)

On Friday, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office announced its biggest fentanyl bust to date, after raiding two houses in Northeast Portland and Oregon City on Thursday and finding the equivalent of over 11 million doses of fentanyl.

It was “one of the largest illegal fentanyl seizures in state history,” according to a Dec. 9 statement from the sheriff’s office.

But the fate of the alleged ringleader remains unclear. Luis Funez, 23, was arrested fleeing from his house in Northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood. He was booked in jail on outstanding warrants and then released, with instructions to return to the courthouse the following morning. Court records say he did not show.

The sheriff’s office says the case has been referred to federal prosecutors, but charges related to Thursday’s bust have yet to be filed. And the whereabouts of Funez, who recently arrived in Portland by way of Sacramento, remain unclear.

These facts came to light after Multnomah County prosecutors filed charges against Funez’s alleged accomplice, 21-year-old Gerson Isaac Hernandez Betancurt, who cops say was a lower level drug runner living in Oregon City.

An affidavit filed by prosecutors late Friday afternoon says Funez, who also goes by Arteaga-Sanchez, was taken to jail on an outstanding warrant with “new charges to follow.” But he “was released by [the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice] before the new charges could be filed, however.”

A DCJ spokesperson says the county followed state-mandated guidelines that determine who can be held in jail while they await trial. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, and MCSO could not immediately respond to questions about the aftermath of the bust. This story will be updated as WW learns more.

Funez’s release puts a bit of a damper on the monthslong investigation and its culmination Thursday, when Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputies and law enforcement in Clackamas County executed search warrants on the two houses. But it also raises questions about why Funez was free to sell drugs for much of the year.

Funez has been on law enforcement’s radar since at least January of this year, when he was arrested dealing fentanyl in downtown Portland on the corner of Southwest 4th Avenue and Ankeny Street, a short walk from the open-air drug market WW examined in a July cover story.

Related: On Portland’s Fentanyl Corner, a Dance With Death Sells for $20

Through a Spanish interpreter, Funez told cops in January that he was supplied by a man named Will, who “would leave a dark brown plastic bag with drugs at a corner for Funez to pick up.”

On the menu: 3.5 grams of meth for $40, 3.5 grams of fentanyl for $70, and fentanyl pills for $2 a pop. Funez was serving upward of 30 customers a day.

He told a county interviewer that he had just arrived in Portland from Sacramento, where he’d lived for five years. Previously, he said, he’d lived in Honduras.

Funez was booked in jail on ten separate felony charges and then immediately released due to court policies that generally prevent the detention of non-violent defendants with limited criminal history.

Three weeks later, he was caught carrying over 100 fentanyl pills and $3,000 in cash during a traffic stop on Southeast Powell Boulevard. Again, he was released and failed to appear at his arraignment.

“It certainly is frustrating to arrest the same people over and over,” says Kevin Allen, spokesperson for the Portland Police Bureau, when asked about the bureau’s history with Funez.

Nearly a year later, cops allege he’s running his own drug trafficking organization.

Deputies stormed Funez’s house in the Cully neighborhood on Dec. 7 and apprehended him as he attempted to flee out the back. He claimed, according to the prosecutor’s affidavit, that the 52 pounds of suspected fentanyl “found open in a cardboard box lined with a trash bag” were for “cookie baking.”

His girlfriend, Dezirae Ann Torset, was inside and also arrested. (She’s currently being held in jail on out-of-state warrants.) Torset, 37, said the $7,000 dollars in the Infiniti out front were “funds for her tax/accounting business startup,” but admitted to police that she wasn’t a certified public accountant and “didn’t have the credit to rent the Airbnb where they were at.”

Meanwhile, Clackamas cops were pounding on the door of a house in Oregon City. It was the house of Betancurt, the “runner” who had allegedly delivered drugs when cops made a “controlled purchase” from Funez.

Betancurt was arrested as he fled out the window, carrying a backpack with over 8,000 fentanyl pills.

Inside the house was nearly $25,000 in cash and “two disassembled rifles, an AR-15 and an AK-47,″ which the affidavit says were “hidden throughout a care package destined for Honduras.”

Betancurt, like Funez, was approved for immediate release by county officials due to his limited criminal history.

Unlike Funez, he is currently being held in jail on behalf of the U.S. Marshals Service, the enforcement arm of the federal court system.

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