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Press Release

Mexico citizen arrested in Kalispell on suspicion of trafficking fentanyl appears in court

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana

MISSOULA — A Mexican citizen who was arrested in Kalispell on suspicion of trafficking fentanyl after law enforcement seized approximately 12,000 fentanyl pills, a firearm and more than $62,000 cash from a vehicle in which he was a passenger had an initial appearance on Oct. 6 on a criminal complaint, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said today.

A criminal complaint filed in the case accuses Cuauhtemoc Cervantes Samaniego, 29, of Mexico, of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and conspiracy to distribute fentanyl. If convicted of the most serious charge, Samaniego faces a mandatory minimum 10 years to life in prison, a $10 million fine and at least five years to life of supervised release.

A criminal complaint is only an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto presided. Samaniego was detained pending further proceedings.

Court documents allege that Samaniego was trafficking fentanyl in Flathead County from about May 2022 to October. During the first week of October, law enforcement learned of a possible sizable load of fentanyl that was going to be transported from San Diego, California, to Kalispell for distribution and that the source of the fentanyl was an individual known as “Johnny.” Investigators further learned that “Johnny” was having large quantities of fentanyl transported to Kalispell for distribution. On Oct. 4, law enforcement received information that “Johnny” would be arriving at a location in Kalispell in a black Honda Civic to conduct a drug transaction. Officers located the vehicle, in which “Johnny” was identified as the passenger and later identified as Samaniego. The driver, who owned the vehicle, consented to a search of the car. Law enforcement found approximately 12,000 blue pills known to be fentanyl under the center console. Additionally, law enforcement located a semi-automatic pistol and seized more than $62,000 cash from the vehicle.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer S. Clark is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations.

PACER case reference. 22-mj-73.

The progress of cases may be monitored through the U.S. District Court Calendar and the PACER system. To establish a PACER account, which provides electronic access to review documents filed in a case, please visit To access the District Court’s calendar, please visit




Clair Johnson Howard
Public Affairs Officer

Updated October 7, 2022

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 22-242