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China White heroin arrives in Cortez; man arrested

Evidence of potent heroin in area is ‘alarming,’ police say

A Cortez man suspected of selling heroin to an undercover agent has been arrested on suspicion of illegal drug distribution, according to the Cortez Police Department.

Jeffrey Joe Willett, 62, was taken into custody Dec. 30 at the Cortez City Market on a warrant that alleges he sold 3.2 grams of heroin at a residence south of Montezuma-Cortez High School Aug. 26.

The undercover operation was conducted jointly by the Montezuma-Cortez Tactical Narcotics Team and the Region 2 Drug Task Force in Farmington.

The type of heroin allegedly sold, known as China White, is “alarming” because of its dangerously high potency, said Cortez Police Detective Tom Quinnett.

“This is the first case where local law enforcement has seen this type of heroin in the community and surrounding areas,” he said. “China White has been linked to heroin overdose death across the United States. Using any illegal drug is bad, but people who buy or consume China White may think they are buying the more typical black tar or brown heroin and end up using a drug that is much stronger than they anticipated.”

According to the arrest affidavit, the Region 2 Drug Task Force in Farmington informed Cortez Police of a potential source of drug supply in Cortez.

A covert “controlled buy” operation was then planned and launched by the two agencies Aug. 26.

A confidential informant and undercover agent negotiated and conducted the purchase, and the operation was closely monitored by law enforcement positioned nearby, according to the arrest affidavit. The confidential informant was equipped with an audio listening device.

The suspected drug transaction took place at a residence on the corner of E. Seventh Street and Sligo Street in south Cortez, which is less than 1,000 feet from the Montezuma-Cortez High School, according to police reports.

As a result, Willett was arrested on a warrant for suspected Distribution of a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance, a first class felony.

During his arrest, a white, crystal-like substance confirmed to be meth was allegedly found on Willett in a cigarette box. He was issued an additional summons for unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

Additional arrests are expected in the undercover drug distribution investigation, according to Cortez Police.

Willett is being held at the Montezuma County Detention Center. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 4.

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