Dori: Sheriff says releasing drug suspects carrying fentanyl to Washington should ‘shock’ parents

Jul 22, 2022, 3:02 PM

Jose Zendejas, left, and Benito Madrigal, right, were discovered with 150 packages that each contai...

Jose Zendejas, left, and Benito Madrigal, right, were discovered with 150 packages that each contained 1,000 fentanyl pills during a traffic stop last month in Tulare County, Calif. (Tulare County Sheriff's Office)

(Tulare County Sheriff's Office)

Two men arrested while en route to Washington state from Mexico with a “huge” stash of fentanyl pills were released without bail by a Tulare County judge in California and are now missing – and the sheriff there is furious.

Despite the deadly drug seizure, a judicial system that allowed the pair of suspected drug mules to go free should outrage innocent people, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux told The Dori Monson Show on Friday.

“People need to rise up and say ‘enough is enough,’” the sheriff said.

Investigators believe the two men – Jose Zendejas, 25, and Benito Madrigal, 19 – “made this trip multiple times.” While some of the stash may have been intended for drops between Los Angeles and San Francisco, “the majority of those fentanyl pills were going to land in Washington state,” Boudreaux told Dori.

How big was the Tulare seizure? Dori asked.

“Huge,” Boudreaux responded. “Not only just here in our county, but anywhere across the country. It’s 151,000 potential deadly doses . . . Every eight minutes, in the United States, someone dies of fentanyl poisoning overdose, so you can imagine that (seizing) 150,000 basically saved 150,000 American lives.”

The confiscated pills were worth at least $750,000 on the street, Boudreaux said. Two kilos of cocaine were also found hidden in the suspects’ vehicle.

It comes at a time, Dori told listeners, that 400 people in King County have already died this year from fentanyl poisoning or overdose. Fentanyl use is now the No. 1 killer of those 18 to 45 years old in America, he added.

While Zendejas and Madrigal were each booked into jail on $1 million bail, a Tulare County Superior Court judge released the men late on a Friday night without notifying Boudreaux’s office.

Boudreaux blames California’s “risk assessment” program which allows judges to review suspects’ cases and release them prior to arraignment, based on various factors – including whether they are likely to return for their court case.

“I would bet a year’s wages that they would not show up – and they did not,” the sheriff said.

Both suspects have an address in Washington, so California authorities are now working with local Drug Enforcement Agency officials to track the alleged drug mules.

Despite their Washington connections, Dori asked, do authorities believe the men are now in Mexico?

“We believe they are,” Boudreaux said. “Quite frankly, they’re not the head (of the drug-running ring). The cartel is completely involved. Our borders need to be secured. (Drugs) are opening coming through, impacting every city across the United States.”

Even with this seizure, the California sheriff said, there doesn’t appear to be any slow-down in drugs coming over the border.

“Kids are ordering fentanyl in candy form, in Pez-style candy,” he said. “If that doesn’t shock the senses of parents all across this country, it should.”

Listen to Dori’s entire interview with Tulare County, Calif., Sheriff Mike Boudreaux describe seizing fentanyl headed for Washington state – and the suspected carriers who were released:

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

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