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March 22, 2023San Diego, CA, United StatesNarcotics

Southern California man sentenced to over 16 years for trafficking counterfeit fentanyl pills

SAN DIEGO — A Southern California man received a lengthy prison sentence for his involvement in trafficking illicit drugs.

A federal judge sentenced Moises Moreno, 38, of Moreno Valley, to 200 months in prison March 20 for importing more than 36 kilograms of fentanyl from Mexico into the United States.

After a two-day jury trial in October 2022, a jury found that Moreno knowingly imported more than 80 pounds of counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl from Mexico into the United States. During the trial, the prosecution presented evidence that Moreno attempted to smuggle the pills into the United States inside a sophisticated compartment in his pickup truck’s roof. The compartment was created by welding a false ceiling from sheet metal.

Prosecutors also presented evidence from Moreno’s cell phone and calls Moreno made to unidentified associates after his arrest. During his calls from jail, Moreno bragged about how he “played dumb” after his arrest and “acted like he thought they found weed in his car.” Moreno further boasted to another associate about the amount of drugs he was caught smuggling and sang that he “got keys coming from overseas,” a line from a popular hip-hop song discussing drug trafficking. Keys is a slang term for kilograms.

The jury also heard the story Moreno told investigators at the time of his arrest: He said he spent the weekend preceding his capture at the border with a woman friend in Mexico. Moreno told investigators that this friend must have set him up to import drugs in the vehicle without his knowledge. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury rejected Moreno’s story and returned a guilty verdict.

“HSI will continue to direct its full range of investigative authorities toward those who smuggle deadly drugs across the border and into our communities,” said HSI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz. “This significant sentence demonstrates the U.S. government’s resolve with holding all those who traffic in drugs accountable for their actions.”

“This sentence sends a clear message to any would-be drug courier that you will receive a significant sentence in this district for your role in importing dangerous narcotics like fentanyl,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman.

Grossman thanked the prosecution team and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for their hard work on the case.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 03/22/2023