A Honduran national who had been arrested multiple times by law enforcement in recent years, and was on pretrial release for drug charges from 2022, has now been ordered to stay in federal custody pending his trial on new charges.
Milton Joel Varela Arteaga, 27, came to the U.S. at the age of 21 in 2018. Since then he's become a fairly successful dealer of fentanyl and meth, according to federal prosecutors, and it seems like he was undeterred from his drug-dealing business despite multiple arrests in recent months.
Arteaga was recently indicted by a federal grand jury for possessing around 4 kilos of fentanyl, allegedly found in his possession on three separate occasions in 2023.
Law enforcement raided Arteaga's Oakland home on Bancroft Avenue on May 11 last year and seized more than 1.3 kilograms of fentanyl and over $70,000 in cash. After that arrest, Arteaga allegedly told cops that he worked the night shift dealing drugs in SF's Tenderloin, typically starting at 6 p.m. and finishing at 4 in the morning.
Arteaga was arrested just six weeks later, on June 28, 2023, while leaving Oakland Airport. Authorities pulled him over in his car and found him transporting over 2 kilos of fentanyl and over $12,000 in cash.
A third arrest came on November 29, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. In that arrest, federal and state law enforcement officers raided Arteaga’s Oakland residence and found more tha a half kilo of fentanyl, as well as more cash, and a Mercedes.
As Bay Area News Group reports, via court documents, Arteaga's girlfriend said she had recently bought a Mercedes for herself as well, in cash.
The feds are reportedly trying to link Arteaga to a bank account that is in the girlfriend's name which contains $244,000. Large sums of cash, totaling around $100,000, were deposited just between October and November of last year — and in all of last year, the girlfriend says she only worked cleaning houses.
We don't know the details of the 2022 arrest that he was on pretrial release for, but suffice it to say, Arteaga was (allegedly) dealing a lot of drugs for a long time. He was also found in possession of around four pounds of meth, the feds say.
"Tackling the scourge of fentanyl is a top priority for my Office," says U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey in a statement. "Our efforts to disrupt the fentanyl trade take many forms, from prosecuting the dealers who peddle this poison on the streets of the Tenderloin to identifying, arresting, and charging their suppliers. We and our law enforcement partners will hold accountable those who sell or facilitate the sale of this deadly drug at every level."
Apparently, Arteaga has another "significant other" (maybe a wife?) back in Honduras, as well as kids.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Kang issued an order Tuesday keeping Arteaga behind bars pending trial, citing flight risk and his connections back home.
"[Arteaga] has incentive to flee and motive to reunite with his children and significant other in Honduras, and the fact that he has demonstrated an ability to travel across borders indicates that there exists a higher risk of such flight," Judge Kang wrote in the order.
If convicted, Arteaga faces up to 40 years in prison.
Top image: Photo of another fentanyl seizure via SFPD