Drug traffickers, extortionists, and bank robbers keep posting clues to their crimes on Facebook

Justin Rohrlich Quartz March 7, 2020, 7:00 AM CST

In late September 2017, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Seattle arrested a large-scale heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, and methamphetamine dealer named Francisco Ruelas-Payan. He later pled guilty to charges of drug trafficking and money laundering, and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.

While phone records and GPS location devices were useful in helping investigators keep tabs on Ruelas-Payan’s location and near-term plans, it was his public Facebook activity that not only confirmed many of these leads but also offered additional clues authorities used to build their case.

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Ruelas-Payan posted lengthy videos to the social media network of himself driving to suspected drug deals, according to a DEA search warrant application unsealed late last month. The trips were further corroborated by GPS data from electronic tracking devices investigators placed on Ruelas-Payan’s cars and phone.

“During one of the videos, Ruelas-Payan points out a red pick-up truck and shouts out his window in Spanish ‘good-bye pig!’” said DEA agent Geoffrey Provenzale in a sworn affidavit. “Based on my training and experience I know the term ‘pig’ is a derogatory term for a police officer.”

One of Provenzale’s colleagues drove a red pickup truck during their investigation, the affidavit explains. And while the red truck Ruelas-Payan saw was not the one the DEA was using to follow him, the video revealed that Ruelas-Payan knew law enforcement had been watching him.

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