Dori: Homeland Security Special Agent on surge in drug trafficking, fentanyl deaths

Nov 22, 2021, 3:52 PM | Updated: Nov 23, 2021, 8:57 am
Fentanyl overdose, opioids...
Fentanyl continues to be one of the leading causes behind Washington's opioid crisis. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Just last week, the Dori Monson Show reported on the arrest of Jovany Cota-Valenzuela, an alleged Mexican drug cartel-funded smuggler who federal investigators say was selling large quantities of deadly fentanyl, cocaine, and other illegal pills near Pioneer Square before he was captured.

Court records show Cota-Valenzuela told investigators that he was smuggled into the United States as a drug mule. He has been connected to a stash of:

  • 322 grams of heroin
  • 143 grams of methamphetamine
  • 48 grams of cocaine mixed with fentanyl
  • 29 grams of fentanyl mixed with cocaine
  • 25 grams of deadly fentanyl
  • 109 blue M30 pills and a separate stash of 152 blue M30 pills, both containing fentanyl
  • a loaded 9-millimeter handgun, scales, and lots of U.S. cash.

To get a sense of what this case represents and how it hits home on the streets of Seattle, Homeland Security Investigations agent Robert Hammer describes the surge in illegal drugs, the related death counts, and his recent firsthand experience with seeing a homeless man attack two innocent people after an outing with his son.

“One-hundred thousand Americans died from fentanyl last year,” Hammer said. “We, as a country, need to wake up to the dangers that this drug poses.”

That danger, Dori calculates, is comparable to the same number of lives lost during the 9/11 terrorist attacks every week-and-a-half for a single year.

Hammer cites the success of a “concerted effort” among “federal, state, and local” law enforcement to stop the surge that continues “to pummel the country.”

In 2020, the agent reports, 38 pounds of fentanyl were seized in the Seattle area. To date, seizures have topped 225 pounds so far this year. One pound of fentanyl alone can be used to create 500,000 pills – so recent seizures account for “millions and millions of pills.”

Another challenge for law enforcement: “Fentanyl is so small, you can smuggle it in anything.”

While this is a professional mission for Hammer, he saw firsthand the effects of drugs and homelessness after attending Sunday’s Seahawks game with his son. While leaving the game, Hammer observed a homeless man spit on an innocent woman. This prompted the woman’s father to confront the man, who then punched the dad, knocking him unconscious after hitting his head on the sidewalk.

“EMS (medics) came immediately,” Hammer said. “But for 30 minutes, I begged for a police officer to come and get this guy.”

Though Hammer tried to track the attacker, “he did disappear into a back alley.”

You can listen to the full interview with Hammer below:

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Dori: Homeland Security Special Agent on surge in drug trafficking, fentanyl deaths