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Berkeley man who kept 2.9 pounds of fentanyl in his backpack gets 8 years in federal prison

Berkeley man who kept 2.9 pounds of fentanyl in his backpack gets 8 years in federal prison

OAKLAND — 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 has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison, court records show.

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

Cruz was the subject of an undercover investigation into alleged fentanyl trafficking in the summer of 2022. After undercover officers bought fentanyl from him twice, 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, prosecutors said.

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Inside his Berkeley apartment, authorities found $18,000 in cash, according to court records.

Cruz’s lawyer, Assistant Federal Public Defender Daniel Blank, quoted a pre-sentencing report that said Cruz owed a large amount of money to dangerous people who helped him get into the United States from Honduras in 2013.

“Mr. Cruz owed $25,000 to the men who transported him,” the report says. “As a result of this debt, and the threats of violence if he did not pay, Mr. Cruz was obliged to sell drugs to earn the required money. Mr. Cruz feared that if he did not pay, there would be violent reprisals not only against him but also against his family, including his family in Honduras.”