Monday, October 3, 2022

Jose Zendejas, Benito Madrigal skip court in fentanyl-traffic case after release on cashless bail

Two men accused of trafficking multiple thousands of fentanyl pills failed to show up for their court date Thursday after having been released on cashless bail last month.

Jose Zendejas, 25, and Benito Madrigal, 19, were released on their own recognizance less than a day after being arrested when, according to authorities, 150,000 fentanyl pills were found in their car during a California traffic stop on June 24.

The judge for their case in Tulare County issued a warrant for their arrest and dropped the men’s $2 million bond.

“I couldn’t believe we had 150,000 fentanyl pills — one of the most dangerous epidemics facing our nation today, with people in custody that we may potentially be able to impact the future of this type of drug trafficking organization… and we let them go,” Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux had previously told Fox News.

The county’s District Attorney Tim Ward told Fox News on Thursday that the lack of transparency with the defendants’ release was “extremely dangerous.”

He went on to say that California’s lawmakers are engaging in a social experiment “borne on the back of law-abiding citizens.”

When the men were pulled over last month, according to legal filings in the case, responding officers found 150 packages that each contained 1,000 fentanyl pills inside.

Authorities estimated that the street value of the drugs were around $750,000.

Officers also say they found two kilograms of cocaine in the car during their search.

The Visalia Times Delta reported that the men were originally arrested and booked at the Tulare County Pretrial Facility, but the county’s probation department deemed them “low risk” and subsequently released them.

Mr. Zendejas and Mr. Madrigal were charged with four counts — false compartment activity (basically, having a hidden space in a car), the sale or transportation of fentanyl, transportation of cocaine, and sale of cocaine. The amount of cocaine was cited as an aggravating circumstance on the last two charges.

They both face 14 years in state prison if convicted on all counts.

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