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CBP declares war on fentanyl: 700,000 pills found in food containers at Arizona border, more on California interstate

CBP at Arizona border detected traffickers using food cans as packaging to hide 700,000 fentanyl pills while a California traffic stop successfully uncovered 93 pounds of the drug

Tráfico de Fentanilo
Drogas en envases de comida | X/@CBPPortDirNOG

May 26, 2024 2:04pm

Updated: May 27, 2024 9:59am

Drug traffickers are demonstrating new and creative ways to evade border controls. At a border point in Arizona, authorities detected traffickers using food cans as packaging to hide 700,000 fentanyl pills.

During a routine inspection between Nogales, Sonora and Arizona on May 16, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents discovered a hidden shipment of the drug in the trunk of a private vehicle.

Michael W. Humphries, director of Ports in Nogales, revealed details of the seizure, highlighting the sophistication of the packaging used by traffickers. The pills were carefully wrapped in transparent plastic bags and camouflaged inside vegetable cans, coconut water bottles, juice cartons and cookie boxes.

However, the apparent “supermarket purchases” revealed minor anomalies that raised suspicions among customs agents.

5/16: CBP officers at the Nogales POE seized approx. 700,000 fentanyl pills hidden in various food cans and cartons in the trunk of a vehicle. Officers continue to be very diligent in their search for dangerous opioids. Good teamwork!

— Port Director Michael W. Humphries (@CBPPortDirNOG) May 23, 2024

During the inspection, one of the agents noticed an unusual sound when shaking one of the cans, which ultimately exposed a fentanyl trafficking operation that was operating under the radar of border authorities.

Although the Sinaloa and Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) cartels have been identified as the main suppliers of fentanyl, the specific link of this seizure with criminal groups has not yet been revealed by authorities.

The massive fentanyl seizure followed another, similar success in California by CBP authorities who thwarted an attempt to smuggle 93 pounds of fentanyl in California.

In that May 14 incident, CBP authorities at the El Centro sector arrested a woman smuggling 93 pounds of fentanyl in southern California.

At 10:50 a.m. that Monday morning, Border Patrol agents operating in a fully marked vehicle pulled over a suspicious blue sedan occupied by a female driver and her teenage son. The car was pulled over near the Golf Center Parkway off Interstate 10 and a canine officer conducted an open air sniff of the vehicle.

An initial search of the vehicle led officers to discover a single blue pill, which the CBP officers detected as fentanyl, and they impounded the vehicle to the nearest Border Patrol station for further inspection.

Once the vehicle was at the CBP station, agents saw suspicious tool markings on the bolts holding the vehicle’s seats in place. The agents removed the seats and discovered several large bags in a makeshift compartment hidden underneath.

The bags contained tens of thousands of blue pills like previous pill discovered during the roadside search. The pills, which tested positive for the presence of fentanyl weighed 93.3 pounds.

“Indio Station Border Patrol agents assigned to the Anti-Smuggling Unit just did what the Border Patrol has done for a century. They protected America from bad things and bad people; in this case a suspected smuggler who endangered a juvenile in a quest to spread deadly drugs into our communities," said El Centro Chief Patrol Agent Gregory K. Bovino in a CBP press release.

“We look forward to teaming up with both the excellent prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California and the equally adept Drug Enforcement Administration, Los Angeles Field Office to provide meaningful consequences to this suspected smuggler,” the federal agent said.

The driver, who has so far been only identified as a U.S. citizen, was arrested and turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration along with the vehicle and fentanyl pills.

Her teenage son was released to “an appropriate party,” according to CBP.

This fentanyl seizures are the result of Operation Apollo, a massive counter-fentanyl effort that started on Oct. 26, 2023 in southern California and Arizona on April 10, 2024.

The operation is channeling U.S. government intelligence collection and building law enforcement partnerships to target the smuggling of fentanyl into the United States.