Connecticut police recover $1.5 million worth of drugs in traffic stop

(WTNH Image)

DERBY, Conn. (WTNH) — Derby police recovered over a million dollars worth of Fentanyl from a tractor trailer truck on Route 34 Wednesday morning.

Police say just before 11 a.m., officers conducted a motor vehicle stop on a tractor trailer heading west on Route 34. After an investigation, around 55 pounds of Fentanyl was found in the truck’s cab. Police say the estimated street value on that amount of Fentanyl is $1.5 million. The DEA says this is one of the five largest Fentanyl busts in U.S. history.

The driver was identified as 47-year-old Erick Escalante, of Arizona. Police say based on the size of the seizure, they turned Escalante and the investigation over to the Drug Enforcement Administration of New Haven.

Escalante was in federal court Wednesday evening where he was charged with possession, intent to distribute and conspiracy to possess and sell. A translator was needed in court and Escalante was given a court-appointed attorney, who he met Wednesday evening. Due to the charges, which carry penalties of ten years or more in prison, and the fact Escalante just met his attorney, he is being held without bond.

Whether it’s Interstate 95, 84, or 91, the DEA says Connecticut is New England’s gateway for Fentanyl, which is why they have focused interest on the state. Agent Michael Ferguson of the DEA said they believe much of the Fentanyl comes from drug cartels in Mexico.

“The cartels actually obtain their Fentanyl from China and sometimes they will also obtain the precursor chemicals in order to make the Fentanyl from China and the cartels in Mexico and rude clandestine line labs will manufacture Fentanyl themselves,” said Ferguson.

Escalante is due back in court on Jan. 4.

The incident remains under investigation.