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Case Against Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy accused of transporting fentanyl pills advances

Jorge Alberto Oceguera Rocha
Jorge Alberto Oceguera Rocha

A former sheriff's correctional deputy who was allegedly caught carrying more than 100 pounds of fentanyl on Interstate 10 waived his preliminary hearing today, advancing his case on the docket without the prosecution having to present any evidence.  

Jorge Alberto Oceguera Rocha, 25, of Banning, is charged with transportation of controlled substances, possession of controlled substances for sale and sentence-enhancing allegations of perpetrating a drug related offense while armed.

Rocha appeared with his attorney at the Riverside Hall of Justice Tuesday for what was scheduled as a status conference, but instead the defense notified the prosecution and Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gary Polk that Rocha intended to waive his right to a preliminary hearing, which would determine whether the government had sufficient evidence to warrant a trial.   

The unexpected and unexplained move was accepted by the judge, who scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for March 19.   

The defendant is being held on $5 million bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.

He resigned his position with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department immediately after he was arrested in September.   

Sheriff's detectives initially submitted their case against him to the U.S. Attorney's Office, but federal prosecutors declined to seek an indictment, according to sheriff's Capt. Rob Roggeveen. U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Thom Mrozek declined to comment on the matter at the time.

Rocha was flash-released from jail but immediately re-arrested on essentially the same allegations. Roggeveen said detectives then took their case to the District Attorney's Office, at which point a criminal complaint was filed in state court.

Sheriff's officials said Rocha was driving in the area of I-10 and County Line Road in Calimesa when he was stopped by law enforcement in the predawn hours of Sept. 17.  

"After a K9 alerted to the presence of narcotics within the vehicle, a search was conducted,'' Roggeveen said. "Located in the vehicle was (104) pounds of packaged fentanyl pills -- M30s. Also located in the vehicle was a loaded handgun."

Rocha was taken into custody without incident.   

The sheriff's captain didn't say how long the Special Investigations Bureau had been conducting surveillance on the defendant, or what evidence prompted the investigation into his alleged narcotics dealing, which did not include "smuggling narcotics into the Riverside County jail system."

"The Sheriff's Department condemns any form of illegal activity and remains resolute in its commitment to deterring and preventing such behavior,'' Roggeveen said, adding the agency "will employ all necessary measures to ensure the highest standards of integrity and professionalism among its personnel."  

Rocha was hired by the department in April 2019 and was assigned to the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.   

Preliminary data just released by the county Department of Public Health showed there were 388 confirmed fentanyl-related fatalities countywide in 2023, a 23% decline from 2022, when there were 503.

Fentanyl is manufactured in overseas labs and smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by cartels, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.   

The drug is 80-100 times more potent than morphine and can be mixed into any number of street narcotics and prescription drugs, without a user knowing what he or she is consuming. Ingestion of only two milligrams can be fatal.

Article Topic Follows: Crime

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