Border Patrol Makes Historic Fentanyl Bust

By Keri Blakinger 02/04/19

Almost $5 million worth of fentanyl and meth were seized.

border patrol agent after historic fentanyl bust

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In the reportedly biggest-ever Border Patrol fentanyl bust, agents in Arizona seized more than 250 pounds of the powerful narcotic hidden away in the secret compartment of a truck carrying cucumbers from Mexico.

The haul of more than 400 packages of drugs included $3.5 million of the high-powered opioid and $1.1 million—nearly 400 pounds—of meth, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

A drug dog at the Nogales port of entry sniffed out the narcotics on January 26, when a 26-year-old driver tried passing through with his truckload of produce. A secondary inspection uncovered a special compartment in the floor of the trailer, where would-be traffickers had hidden the pricey stash totaling nearly 650 pounds. 

The fentanyl bust was the largest in the history of the CBP while the meth seizure was the third-largest at an Arizona port of entry.

The bust came one day after President Trump announced an end to the federal government shutdown that left thousands of government employees furloughed or temporarily working without pay.

“I want to express my gratitude to the CBP officers involved in this case and Nogales personnel who selflessly perform their duties with dedication, vigilance, and professionalism," said Nogales Area Port Director Michael Humphries. "This past weekend our CBP officers were able to stop an enormous amount of these deadly narcotics from hitting our streets.” 

The driver was arrested and turned over to Homeland Security officials, who charged him with two counts of possession with intent to distribute. He is currently in federal custody, though authorities have not identified him.

The Mariposa commercial crossing sees more than 1,500 trucks per day during the busy winter produce season, when millions of pounds of fruits and vegetables are shipped over the border every day. The size of Saturday’s bust was a surprise, authorities said, even at a high-volume port in the region that typically nets the most seizures of the addictive drug.

"Normally, the southwest border ports are intercepting the most fentanyl, compared to other ports of entry, airports, seaports, the northern border," said Guadalupe Ramirez, who oversees all Arizona border crossings, according to USA Today. "In CBP, in the history of CBP, this is the largest fentanyl seizure."

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.