Report: Two Accused Fentanyl Traffickers Fail to Appear in California Court After Previously Being Released

Detectives arrested 25-year-old Jose Zendejas and 19-year-old Benito Madrigal, both of Washington. They face charges of possession, transportation and sales of illegal drugs. They were booked at the Tulare County Pre-Trial Facility.
Tulare County Sheriff's Office

Two men facing charges for trafficking fentanyl – after being arrested in late June – failed to appear at a court hearing in California on Thursday, Fox News reported.

Jose Zendejas, 25, and Benito Madrigal, 19, of Washington state, were arrested in Tulare County on June 24 after officers conducting a traffic stop discovered approximately 150,000 fentanyl pills – enough to kill millions of people – in their vehicle, authorities stated. The value of the seizure was approximately $750,000.

Authorities also found two kilograms of cocaine when searching the vehicle. The bail for both suspects was set at $1 million.

However, the suspects were released from custody the day after their arrest on cashless bail as the Tulare County Superior Court deemed them both “low risk” following a pre-trial assessment reportedly done in the middle of the night.

The county sheriff’s office and district attorney’s office were not consulted on the release, the Tulare County District Attorney’s (TCDA) Office stated at the time.

Six days after Zendejas and Madrigal’s arrest, the TCDA filed multiple felony drug trafficking charges against the two men and issued arrest warrants for them, with bail set at $2.15 million and a court appearance set for July 21.

After they failed to appear on Thursday, Fox News reported that “the judge withdrew the prior $2 million bond and directed each be held without bond if they pop up.” An arrest warrant remains active for the two suspects.

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux told Fox News that he was not expecting the two suspected drug traffickers to show up at Thursday’s hearing.

Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward slammed the California judicial system after the two suspects failed to show up in court.

Ward told Fox News:

The problem is once again the legislature and the state of California are trying to go down some social experiment born [sic] on the back of law-abiding citizens. I go out on a limb and say that had these defendants been subject to the million bail that was in place when they were arrested, and they made bail based on that amount, they would have some skin in the game, some financial obligation and motivation to return to court.

The suspects face up to 14 years in state prison if convicted on all the counts.

You can follow Ethan Letkeman on Twitter at @EthanLetkeman.

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