Suspect In Massive Derby Drug Bust Pleads Guilty

FILEA trucker arrested last year for hauling 55 pounds of Fentanyl through Derby now faces more than a decade in prison after pleading guilty in federal court.

Eric Escalante was arrested after a traffic stop by local police on Route 34 in east Derby Dec. 21, 2016. Police said they recovered $1.5 million worth of Fentanyl.

The seizure is among the largest Fentanyl busts recorded in the U.S., according to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. Vice reported it was enough Fentanyl to kill everyone in Connecticut — twice.

Fentanyl is a dangerously potent synthetic opioid, especially when mixed with heroin.

The drug is frequently blamed for overdoses, as was the case with at least one fatal overdose in Derby last year.

Court documents show Escalante pleaded guilty April 4 to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl.

He could be sent away for 20 years, but a plea agreement between Escalante and federal prosecutors indicates Escalante will likely be sentenced to between 11 and 14 years in prison.

The Valley Indy left a message with Escalante’s lawyer Tuesday.

According to court documents, Derby police stopped Escalante’s 18-wheeler because he failed to keep the truck in his travel lane.

During the traffic stop, Escalante “appeared abnormally nervous and at times appeared confused as to where he was going and from where he was coming,” according to an affidavit written by a Hamden police officer serving with a federal Drug Enforcement Administration organized crime drug task force.

Officers noticed a large cardboard box in the cab of the truck. They asked Escalante what was in it.

“S**t,” he allegedly replied.

Police called in a police dog from Shelton to sniff around the truck.

The animal alerted officers that there were drugs in the box.

Police then removed the box from the truck and opened it up. Inside, they found 25 vacuum-sealed bricks of Fentanyl.

In January, Escalante’s lawyer filed a motion seeking to have him released on bond and confined to his home while the case was pending.

But that motion was withdrawn two weeks later as a plea deal was negotiated.

Escalante pleaded guilty in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah A.L. Merriam in federal court in New Haven.

Escalante’s sentencing has not yet been scheduled, but his lawyer and a federal prosecutor are scheduled to talk about the case during a telephone status conference with a judge Thursday afternoon.

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