LITTLE ROCK—An Arizona man was sentenced today to 132 months in federal prison for his involvement in a fentanyl conspiracy that took him through Russellville, Arkansas. Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, announced that Herbierto Felix Ruiz, 48, was sentenced for conspiracy to possess fentanyl with intent to distribute.
On September 28, 2017, Arkansas State Police conducted a traffic stop in Russellville when a silver Hyundai Santa Fe crossed the center line on Interstate 40. Ruiz was the front seat passenger, and his name was on the car’s rental agreement. Ruiz had rented the car two days earlier in California. When the driver of the car and Ruiz gave conflicting stories to the officer, the officer asked to search their vehicle, and Ruiz consented to the search.
The officer found six packages wrapped in duct tape and 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, which had a street value of over $6 million.
In November 2017, a grand jury charged Ruiz with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl. Then, in February 2018, an auto salvage business contacted law enforcement to report they had located a suspicious package in a vehicle they had purchased at auction from a car rental company. The vehicle was the same Hyundai Santa Fe from Ruiz’ previous traffic stop, and it contained an additional five kilograms of fentanyl that had not been found in the initial search.
On April 3, 2018, a grand jury charged Ruiz, and others, in a Superseding Indictment to increase the amount of fentanyl involved in the offense. Ruiz pleaded guilty on October 10, 2019. Today, United States Chief District Court Judge D. Price Marshall, Jr., sentenced Ruiz to eleven years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system. Chief District Court Judge Marshall stated at the sentencing hearing that part of the basis for his sentencing decision was due to the danger involved with fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is an incredibly dangerous drug, and our office remains focused on removing it from our streets,” stated U.S. Attorney Hiland. “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.”
Fentanyl is the greatest and most significant synthetic opioid threat to the United States, including here in Arkansas, where as little as two milligrams is a lethal dose. This conviction and lengthy sentence should send a message to all drug traffickers that DEA will continue to work with all of our law enforcement partners to aggressively pursue those who ruthlessly traffic fentanyl and other dangerous drugs,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Justin King.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has placed significant focus on fentanyl in the Eastern District of Arkansas, especially highlighted by three separate takedown operations in October 2019. Those operations resulted in criminal charges against 49 people and seizure of over 1,600 grams of fentanyl. A single dose of fentanyl can be as small as one-sixteenth of a gram.
The Ruiz investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Arkansas State Police, and the Fifth Judicial Drug Task Force.
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This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the
United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, is available on-line at