Alleged Colorado Plug Challenges the Integrity of Natrona County Investigators, Trial Set
A Colorado man is challenging the lawfulness of an investigation that could put him behind bars for several decades.
Fernando Hernandez, born in 1981, is facing five felony drug charges in Natrona County.
The charges are the product of a years-long investigation that began in August 2021 when DCI agents began pursuing Isaiah Wallace as a large-scale drug-dealer in the Casper-area. Wallace was sentenced in February to 12—18 years in prison for leading a drug conspiracy.
Court records show that investigators believed Wallace's primary source was Hernandez.
In 2022, investigators recorded cell-phone conversations and in-person meetings between Wallace and Hernandez.
One such back-and-forth recorded in the affidavit supporting the charges states that on March 16, 2022, "pursuant to a court authorized intercept," Wallace asked Hernandez for 10 pounds of methamphetamine, 3,000 fentanyl pills, and 12 pounds of marijuana; Hernandez allegedly responded, "alright, fam."
On April 25, 2022, Denver DEA agents executed an arrest warrant on Hernandez and found about 7,000 fentanyl pills. Court records say Hernandez admitted to agents that he was involved in drug distribution with Wallace.
Thereafter, agents believe Hernandez fled the Denver-area to California.
On July 19, 2023 Hernandez filed a motion to dismiss the arrest warrant due to illegitimacies in the charging document supporting the case.
The motion challenges the probable cause required to arrest Hernandez: "The affidavit is replete with conclusions and bald allegations of criminal conduct without trustworthy information nor supporting the facts." It further calls out the investigation for gathering information unlawfully per the requirements declared by the United States Supreme Court in Giordenello v. United States.
The defendant argues that a state court judge acting under Wyoming law has no authority authorize intercept outside of the judge's own judicial district when Wyoming agents continued their investigation within the state of Colorado.
A three-day-trial has been set for the matter on Jan. 8, 2024, at 9:00 AM. before Judge Daniel Forgey.
Hernandez is being represented by attorney Steven Iberlin. The prosecuting attorney is Assistant District attorney Blaine Nelson.
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