OR: Police trace Salem drug case to supplier in Mexico

Federal court records showed an informant orchestrated a drug deal that led Salem police to 25,000 fake pills made with fentanyl, 28 pounds of meth and 6 pounds of heroin.

Rico Rigutto arrived in the parking lot of Walgreens on Northwest Wallace Road Tuesday night in a Chevy Tahoe with 3,000 fake Oxycodone pills and an automatic pistol.

As watching detectives later recounted in an affidavit, Rigutto waited for about 30 minutes for a buyer who never showed up. He then drove away, was stopped by police and arrested.

His arrest was the latest step by local police and federal agents working to stem increasing trafficking in counterfeit opiates and a rising toll from overdoses.

The affidavit, filed in federal court to support a criminal complaint, recounted how the investigation unfolded and led investigators to Rigutto’s Salem home.

A search there turned up about 25,000 fraudulent oxycodone pills, 28 pounds of methamphetamine, six pounds of heroin, 16 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and around $75,000 in cash, according to a Friday news release from the Salem Police Department. That amount of methamphetamine could produce approximately 64,000 user doses.

Rigutto, 25 of Salem, has been charged in Portland U.S. District Court with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, unlawful possession of a machine gun and possession of a machine gun in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, according to the criminal complaint.

Rigutto was booked Wednesday afternoon into the Multnomah County Jail in Portland, where he remained in custody without bail on a U.S. Marshals Service hold as of Friday afternoon, the jail’s roster showed.

Federal court documents detail the international scope of Rigutto’s arrest, and how he got on the radar of Salem police and the FBI. Except where noted, this is account is based on the federal affidavit.

Rigutto’s activities came to light as Salem police are seeing a rise in overdoses, along with an increase in the trafficking of counterfeit opiate pills and drug seizures, Salem Police Lt. Ben Bales, who leads the agency’s Strategic Investigations Unit, said in an email.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, is often mixed with heroin to make it more potent or be disguised as potent heroin, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

“The trafficking of counterfeit opiate pills is definitely on the rise in our area, but also across the nation,” Bales said. He said police are seeing fentanyl mixed with many other narcotics like cocaine, Xanax, meth, and “the combinations can be lethal.”

Salem police and FBI Portland declined to comment on details of Rigutto’s case, citing an open investigation.

But the affidavit recounted how in November, Anthony Burke, a Salem detective assigned to an FBI task force, started working with an informant who had been arrested on federal drug charges.

The informant has previously been convicted for multiple drug charges, third-degree robbery, first-degree failure to appear, fourth-degree assault and multiple counts of second- and third-degree theft.

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