Fentanyl deal turns violent at Home Depot — with DEA watching

Clockwise from top left, Carlos Benitez Montserrate, Hector Diaz-Sanchez, Henri Fernandez and Uriel Alavez Ramirez

Clockwise from top left, Carlos Benitez Montserrate, Hector Diaz-Sanchez, Henri Fernandez and Uriel Alavez Ramirez

Acting on a tip from an informant, agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency went to a DeKalb County Home Depot to bust up a drug deal.

They didn’t know a crew would also be there to rob the man selling 1.25 kilograms of the deadly opioid fentanyl, agent Jose Chollazo testified Wednesday in a hearing for the suspects.

Chollazo detailed the chaos of July 6:

At 7:45 p.m., agents tailed the dealer’s Mercedes Benz to the Tilly Mill Road retailer in Doraville. The dealer’s fentanyl, a painkiller killing people across the country in unprecedented numbers, was 95 percent pure.

In the parking lot, a Chevrolet Camaro waited for him.

Curiously, agents saw two other vehicles pull up nearby in the parking lot.

The agents watched as the dealer, whose identity wasn’t immediately available, gave a bag to the man in the Camaro, identified by police as Uriel Alavez-Ramirez, 28, of Norcross.

Alavez-Ramirez in return handed over a bag containing about $54,500 in cash and quickly sped away, the agent testified.

The dealer started to drive off, but a man from one of the lurking vehicles approached with a gun. The gunman, identified as Hector Diaz-Sanchez, 23, of Norcross, allegedly pulled the dealer out of the Mercedes and held the firearm to his head.

Agents descended on the scene, hoping to avoid further violence, Chollazo testified.

The dealer escaped the gunman and then escaped agents on foot.

The gunman tried to flee in the dealer’s Mercedes but was arrested.

The man who’d handed over the bag of cash was soon picked up at a QuikTrip gas station on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, Chollazo said.

Also arrested and accused of taking part in the robbery were Carlos Benitez-Montserrate, 38, of Lawrenceville and Henri Salce-Fernandez, 22, of Lilburn.

The suspects were in court for a probable cause hearing.

Defense attorneys argued for the charges to be dropped. John Burdges, representing the alleged gunman, said the armed robbery charges weren’t proper because the dealer, who would be the victim, hasn’t been found.

Without a statement from the dealer, Burdges asked, who’s to say it was a robbery and not a plot by the dealer to make it look like he got robbed?

But Judge Claire Jason found probable cause for the state to proceed with the case for all the suspects except Alavez-Ramirez, who’d allegedly handed over the cash. A judge will consider the fentanyl trafficking charge against Alavez-Ramirez at a later date because his attorney wasn’t available for the hearing.

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