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Cartel member caused fentanyl to flow from jail cell into North Dakota, court documents show – InForum

FARGO – Court documents related to a newly filed case in U.S. District Court in North Dakota shed light on how investigators uncovered a major drug trafficking ring run by a Mexican cartel member from a federal prison in Colorado that led to the shipment of large quantities of fentanyl , heroin and other illegal substances to North Dakota and several other states.

A recently released search warrant shows that Homeland Security investigators began an investigation into the drug trafficking last spring.

A UPS package containing 15,000 fentanyl pills was intercepted by federal agents in Fargo on June 16, 2023. Subscriber information obtained through a grand jury subpoena for a phone number associated with the package led investigators to 26-year-old Jesus Celestin-Ortega, who was at the time serving a 15-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution, or FCI, in Florence, CO.

Court documents identify Celestin-Ortega, also known as Flaco, as a Mexican cartel member and member of the Mexican prison gang Paisa. He was arrested in Colorado in the summer of 2019 on federal drug and firearms charges.

Investigators said Celestin-Ortega communicated directly with people outside of FCI Florence, always during scheduled lockdown hours, via text messages, phone calls and Facebook messenger, and arranged for deliveries of fentanyl, meth and heroin from Mexico to people in North Dakota and several states , including Minnesota, California, Colorado, Georgia, Missouri, Texas and Arizona.

Seven people from various parts of the country, including Minnesota, Arizona, Texas and Colorado, have been indicted on charges related to the operation. While the charges remain sealed because at least one suspect in the case has not yet been arrested, several co-defendants have appeared in court in Fargo, including Celestin-Ortega on April 26.

Celestin-Ortega is charged with four crimes in this case, including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to import controlled substances from Mexico into the United States, money laundering and continued criminal activity due to his leading role in the human trafficking plot.

All other co-defendants have also been charged with the first count of conspiracy to distribute, and at least two have been charged with the second and third counts of conspiracy to import and money laundering. Their exact role in the conspiracy has not yet been detailed in court documents or hearings.

The conspiracy charge carries mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years in prison, with a maximum sentence of life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million.

According to the indictment, the operation began in January 2022. The co-defendants are accused of facilitating the shipments of fentanyl and meth to Fargo in June and December of last year, as well as the delivery of 1 kg of heroin to Grand Forks in February. from this year

All of the accused co-conspirators who have appeared have entered not guilty pleas.

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