‘Skittles Man’ and others in Sinaloa Cartel imprisoned for trafficking fentanyl in Florida

The “Skittles Man” — nicknamed for his huge supply of rainbow-colored fentanyl pills — is one of seven members and associates of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel sent to prison in recent months by a federal judge in South Florida.

The Skittles Man, whose real name is Roque Bustamante, supplied thousands of deadly Mexican-made fentanyl pills to Hector Apodaca-Alvarez, according to federal authorities. In recorded conversations, Apodaca-Alvarez and Bustamante asked an undercover agent if he would supply them with firearms, including .50 caliber high-powered rifles to be smuggled into Mexico.

Last year, Apodaca-Alvarez was arrested in South Florida while delivering 16 kilos of fentanyl and 2 kilos of cocaine to the undercover agent.

After pleading guilty to drug-trafficking conspiracy charges, Apodaca-Alvarez was sentenced to life in prison in March. Earlier this month, Bustamante got the same punishment. Then on Wednesday, one of their associates, Luis Tejada Velasquez, was sent to prison for 20 years by U.S. District Judge Michael Moore in Miami federal court.

Those three men conspired with four other members of the Sinaloa Cartel who have also been sent to prison for distributing fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine in several parts of the United States, including Arizona, California and Florida, Kentucky.

Between June 2022 and May 2023, Apodaca-Alvarez used the U.S. mail and his own trucking business to send tens of thousands of pressed fentanyl pills and multiple kilos of fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine to the undercover agent based in South Florida, according to federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Apodaca-Alvarez told the undercover agent that he was working with members of the Sinaloa Cartel to distribute the drugs and said that the potency of his pressed fentanyl pills “was dropping people everywhere,” prosecutors said.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Drug Threat Assessment, the Sinaloa Cartel is “at the heart of the fentanyl crisis.” The cartel operates clandestine labs in Mexico where it manufactures fentanyl, a synthetic form of heroin, and uses a vast network to transport the opioid drug into the United States.

Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat the United States has ever faced, killing 38,000 Americans in the first six months of 2023 alone, according to federal authorities.

“The fentanyl epidemic ... has caused a deafening silence as thousands of people have overdosed and died,” said Markenzy Lapointe, the U.S. Attorney in South Florida.

In the investigation, the Drug Enforcement Adminstration and other agencies seized about 21 kilos of pure fentanyl; 70,000 rainbow-colored fentanyl pills; 3,000 M30 blue fentanyl pills; 243 pounds of crystal meth; two kilos of cocaine; and 24 firearms, including 18 rifles and six pistol.

The DEA worked on the case with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firerms & Explosives, Homeland Security Investigation, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, U. S. Marshals Service and U.S. Postal Inspection Service.