RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- A Riverside County sheriff's correctional deputy with alleged ties to a Mexican drug cartel was charged with drug trafficking and possession of over 100 pounds of fentanyl, according to prosecutors.
Jorge Alberto Oceguera-Rocha, 25, of Banning was charged in state court on Monday after federal prosecutors declined last week to seek an indictment against him, resulting in his flash release from jail and immediate re-arrest.
Along with the transportation count, Oceguera-Rocha is charged with possession of controlled substances for sale, along with sentence-enhancing allegations of perpetrating a drug-related offense while armed.
He pleaded not guilty during an arraignment before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Valerie Navarro, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Oct. 31 at the Banning Justice Center.
According to a declaration regarding felonious source of bail, filed in Riverside County Superior Court, "Oceguera-Rocha conducts narcotics-related activity in concert with the Mexican Cartel and due to the nature of this relationship it is presumed that Oceguera-Rocha has access to large quantities of narcotics as well."
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 the first time, sheriff's officials said.
Early last week, detectives submitted their case against Oceguera-Rocha 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.
Because Oceguera-Rocha's guaranteed speedy arraignment window closed on Wednesday, he was flash-released from jail but immediately re-arrested on essentially the same allegations as before. Roggeveen said detectives then took their case to the district attorney's office and received confirmation a criminal complaint would be filed.
Prosecutors furnished that complaint to the Superior Court late Monday morning.
"Bail was set at $5 million based on the weight amount (of the fentanyl), danger to the public and potential for Rocha to flee from prosecution," Roggeveen said.
Sheriff's officials said Oceguera-Rocha was driving in the area of the 10 Freeway 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."
Oceguera-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 that the agency "will employ all necessary measures to ensure the highest standards of integrity and professionalism among its personnel."
Oceguera-Rocha was hired by the department in April 2019 and was assigned to the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
City News Service contributed to this report.