Berkeley man who kept 2.9 pounds of fentanyl in his backpack gets 7 years in federal prison

Defense says he was in debt to dangerous people

OAKLAND, Calif. — According to court records, a Berkeley man who was arrested with 2.9 pounds of fentanyl and six ounces of methamphetamine as he was leaving home for San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood was sentenced to seven years in federal prison.

According to court records, Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg sentenced Luis Cruz, 29, late last month. Cruz pleaded guilty in April to fentanyl and methamphetamine distribution.

In the summer of 2022, Cruz was the subject of an undercover investigation into alleged fentanyl trafficking. Authorities stopped him on Aug. 17, 2022, as he was leaving his Berkeley home for San Francisco carrying a backpack, where the drugs, brass knuckles, and a knife were found, according to prosecutors.

According to court records, authorities discovered $18,000 in cash inside his Berkeley apartment.

Cruz’s attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Daniel Blank, cited a pre-sentencing report that stated Cruz owed a substantial sum of money to dangerous people who assisted him in entering the United States from Honduras in 2013.

“Mr. Cruz owed $25,000 to the men who transported him,” according to the report. “As a result of this debt, and the threats of violence if he did not pay, Mr. Cruz was forced to sell drugs in order to raise the necessary funds.” Mr. Cruz feared that if he did not pay, he would face violent retaliation not only against himself, but also against his family, including his Honduran relatives.”

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