A Federal Task Force Is Moving Up the Ranks of Portland’s Fentanyl Trafficking Rings

Recent court documents offer new clues about how the organizations work.

Smoking fentanyl in downtown Portland. (Blake Benard)

Since fentanyl dealers swarmed downtown Portland last year, law enforcement has been working to identify the suppliers—and efforts to arrest ringleaders higher up the chain are now bearing fruit. So far, the raids have generally led to sleepy suburban stash houses and, in one recent case, an Airbnb. But a new criminal complaint suggests the outlines of the case that federal authorities are building.

That criminal complaint, filed Dec. 12 in U.S. District Court in Portland, reveals that law enforcement are investigating a trend of drug trafficking organizations using “Honduran nationals to distribute bulk amounts of fentanyl…in the western United States.” It names five cities: Portland, Seattle, Oakland, Denver and Salt Lake City.

The investigation outlined in the Dec. 12 complaint is led by a Drug Enforcement Administration task force, “Group D-51,” made up of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Tigard and Sherwood police departments, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Prosecutors have filed two recent cases as a result of the task force’s efforts. One accuses Yosel Josue Rodriguez Paz of trafficking fentanyl after cops searched his Milwaukie home and found nearly 700 grams of fentanyl and heroin. Another complaint filed in October, accusing Luciano Gabriel Rodriguez-Ortiz of similar crimes, gives more details into the investigation, saying it’s seized approximately $75,000 in drug proceeds so far.

Much of the complaints are redacted, but they do offer additional insight into the breadth of the illicit operations. The October complaint says a drug trafficking organization being targeted by D-51 investigators “is suspected of importing controlled substances, including fentanyl pills, heroin, and methamphetamine from Mexico into the United States, and conspiring to distribute those drugs in Oregon and Washington.”

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