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Two suspected drug traffickers arrested for possessing 150,000 illegal fentanyl pills during a traffic stop in California were released just a day later, authorities said.
Jose Zendejas, 25, and Benito Madrigal, 19, both of Washington, were booked into the Tulare County Pre-Trial Center after being arrested with $750,000 worth of fentanyl pills.
The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office issued an update Monday announcing that the two had been released one day after their arrest on Saturday, following a court order.
Sheriff Mike Boudreaux “strongly disagrees” with the order to release the two men, saying it is a public safety issue. He had no say in the court order and was forced to comply.
“All inmates booked into Tulare County jails are sent through what is known as the Risk Assessment Process through the Tulare County Probation Department,” police said. That “Risk Assessment” is then sent to a judge with the court, who then determines if the arrested individual is out on bail or if he should be released.
Tulare District Attorney Tim Ward has not commented on the release, but his office says they were not part of the Tulare County Probation Department’s decision process.
The two men will return to court on July 21, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Officers found the two in possession of 150,000 illegal fentanyl pills.
Arrested and Charged
Both are from Washington state, but were driving through California at the time of their arrest.
Jose Zendejas, 25, and Benito Madrigal, 19, were arrested in California for possession of $750,000 worth of fentanyl pills.
California man, 60, is charged with possession of enough…
The potent drug that is stronger than heroin and morphine is a leading contributor to fatal overdoses statewide, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Fentanyl-related deaths ‘increased at an unpredictable rate in 2020’ with 3,946 overdoses, according to the latest CDPH data.
Fentanyl is currently classified as a Schedule II drug that has a “high potential for abuse that can lead to serious psychological or physical dependence,” according to the US Department of Justice.
Currently in the state, possession of fentanyl is a mere misdemeanor.
California lawmakers have been warning against the deadly fentanyl crisis that has been poisoning young people across the state and calling for harsher penalties.
Earlier in April of this year, some state legislators attempted to pass legislation to make possession of two or more grams of fentanyl a felony. In the same bill, lawmakers proposed reclassifying fentanyl as a Schedule I drug along with methamphetamine and heroin, but failed.
If passed, traffickers would have spent 20 years to life in prison for distributing fentanyl resulting in death.
Both Republicans and Democrats have tried to combat the fentanyl crisis, but some of their peers argue that tougher penalties are not the solution.
Jose Zendejas Quicks and Facts
- Jose Zendejas, 25, and Benito Madrigal, 19, were arrested on Friday in Tulare, California after being caught with 150,000 illegal fentanyl pills
- The men were held at the Tulare County Pre-Trial Facility before being released the very next day on a court orderThe two are scheduled to return to court on July 21 to discuss the $750,000 worth of fentanyl pills