AP NEWS

Fentanyl courier busted in Derby to get federal prison time

April 3, 2019

DERBY-A truck driver busted by local police in what turned out to be one of the biggest fentanyl finds in recent history will be sentenced this afternoon in Hartford federal court.

Erick Crespo-Escalante, a Mexican national living in Arizona claimed he was delivering the drug to Waterbury to pay off a debt on his truck. He , faces up 11 years and three months in prison when he is sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Alvin Thompson.

Crespo-Escalante also faces deportation from his permanent resident status after completing his term. He has been in custody since his Dec. 21, 2016 arrest on Route 34.

“Heroin and fentanyl trafficking has become a priority for federal law enforcement efforts,” Assistant U.S. Attorney S. David Vatti wrote the judge in his sentencing memorandum.

The prosecutor pointed out that nearly 75 percent of the more than 1,000 overdose deaths in Connecticut last year involved drugs laced with fentanyl.

“Heroin cut with fentanyl has increasingly become a problem in Connecticut’s cities and surrounding communities,” Vatti said. “Connecticut is in the midst of an opiate crisis and heroin-fentanyl-related abuse, addiction and overdose deaths are front and center in this burgeoning epidemic.”

“As the Court well knows, drug trafficking has a broad array of victims, from the individuals who become addicted, to families that are destroyed, to the erosion of educational and economic opportunities and the decay of whole neighborhoods,” Vatti said.

Meanwhile J. Patten Brown III, Crespo-Escalante’s court appointed lawyer, is expected to ask for a sentence of time served. He will point out that his client has no prior record, was just a courier and trying to pay off his truck. The lawyer also notes that Crespo-Escalante’s wife has filed for divorce as a result of his arrest..

It was just before Christmas, 2016 when police stopped the 18-wheeler tractor trailer truck for failing to drive in the proper lane on the highway’s two lane approach to Derby and Route 8.

Derby police said Crespo-Escalante told them he had just made a delivery in Orange and was looking for a place to buy diesel fuel. He appeared nervous and confused when asked what was in a cardboard box on the passenger seat, police said.

Police claimed Crespo-Escalante offer them the box but instead they called in Shelton Police to bring a drug sniffing K-9 who alerted on the box.

Inside police found 25 brick like packages inside vacuum-sealed bags each containing a kilogram of what later tested positive for fentanyl. Police estimated the drug’s worth to be at least $1.5 million. They also determined the Orange delivery did not involve narcotics.

As the investigation continued it was discovered that Omar Villarreal, 27, of La Punte, Ca. previously spent two months in Waterbury setting up a stash house for narcotics and this delivery. Villarreal also conversed with Crespo-Escalante by phone, federal investigators claim.

Villarreal pleaded guilty Aug. 30,2018 to aiding and abetting possession with the intent to distribute fentanyl and traveling interstate to promote unlawful activity.

Villarreal faces anywhere between nine years and 11 years and three months in federal prison when he is sentenced on May 8. He has been detained without bond since his May 15, 2017 arrest.