An Arizona man was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison Thursday for his involvement in a fentanyl conspiracy that took him through Arkansas.
Herbierto Felix Ruiz, 48, was arrested Sept. 28, 2017 when Arkansas State Police conducted a traffic stop in Russellville on a silver Hyundai Santa Fe that had crossed the center line. Ruiz was the front seat passenger in the vehicle and his name was on the rental agreement. The vehicle had been rented two days before in California.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, when the driver and Ruiz gave conflicting stories to the officer, he asked for permission to search the vehicle and Ruiz agreed.
During the search, six packages wrapped in duct tape were found hidden in the vehicle’s spare tire. The spare tire was a 15-inch tire but the vehicle required 17-inch tires. The packages turned out to be over 15 pounds of fentanyl with a street value of over $6 million.
Ruiz was indicted by a federal grand jury in November 2017 on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver fentanyl. In February 2018, law enforcement was contacted by an auto salvage business who reported that they had found a suspicious package in a vehicle they had purchased from a car rental company. The vehicle was the same one that Ruiz had been in when troopers stopped it and it contained an additional five kilograms of fentanyl.
He pleaded guilty to the charge on Oct. 10, 2019 and was sentenced Thursday by Chief Federal District Judge Price D. Marshall Jr. There is no parole in the federal system.
“Fentanyl is an incredibly dangerous drug and our office remains focused on removing it from our streets,” Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas said. “Today’s lengthy sentence is an example of the continued pressure we will apply to drug traffickers, especially those who bring this deadly substance into our communities.”
Justin King, who is the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the DEA in Arkansas said “Fentanyl is the greatest and most significant synthetic opioid threat to the United States and here in Arkansas, where as little as two milligrams is a lethal dose.”