The man federal prosecutors say trafficked enough fentanyl to kill one million people was sentenced this week to more than five years in prison after claiming he received a videotape showing his mother had been kidnapped.
Jose Alonso Rios, 35, was sentenced in Dayton’s U.S. District Court to 63 months in federal prison for distributing more than 400 grams of fentanyl.
Rios’ sentence was below the non-binding, advisory guideline of 10 years or more.
“In his mind, Defendant was forced to do this to protect her,” wrote Rios’ defense attorney, Vincent Popp, who noted in a sentencing memo that Rios told officers the story upon arrest. “He was given a phone number to call upon his arrival in the Dayton area. He had no indication how much, or even if, he would be paid upon his return.
“Defendant had to pay his own expenses. While he knew that he was transporting drugs, it appears that he neither knew exactly what nor how much.”
Prosecutors asked for a longer sentence, noting that Rios used a child to assist in drug trafficking and that he was sentenced for having more than 50 pounds of marijuana in Arizona and 27 pounds of cocaine in Oklahoma.
“Mr. Rios’ history as a drug courier casts some doubt upon his claim that someone forced him to participate in this current offense,” wrote assistant U.S. attorney Brent Tabacchi in a sentencing memo. “The events of this case seem more an extension of his historical drug trafficking activity than the result of purportedly coercive actions of Mexican drug dealers operating in the United States.”
Another man, Jesus Olegario Vidal Portillo, 21, was previously sentenced to three years in prison for conspiracy to traffic fentanyl.
Both were indicted Nov. 30 in Dayton’s U.S. District Court after law enforcement filed a complaint saying they were located with two “bricks” of suspected fentanyl each weighing more than 1,000 grams (2.2 pounds).
The 2,000 grams of fentanyl is an amount a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency website indicated could cause one million fatal overdoses.
A Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agent wrote in the complaint that on Nov. 20, law enforcement around Dayton became aware that Rios was staying at the Comfort Inn on Miller Lane in Butler Twp.
Local and federal law enforcement agents including HSI’s Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) observed Rios, his girlfriend and three minor children get into a black Dodge Journey with a Utah license plate, according to the complaint.
Later, at an ER in Huber Heights, and Rios was observed walking in with a blue bag, the complaint said. About an hour later, the special agent wrote, law enforcement saw a minor boy walk out of the ER with the blue bag and leave it near a dumpster.
The complaint said the boy was checking out vehicles and watched as a man — later identified as Vidal — got out of a gray Toyota Corolla and retrieve the bag.