US border agency says it’s made biggest-ever fentanyl bust

254 pounds of fentanyl in a secret compartment inside a load of Mexican produce heading into Arizona

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials announced Thursday their biggest fentanyl bust ever, saying they captured nearly 254 pounds (114 kilograms) of the synthetic drug that is helping fueling a national epidemic of fatal opioid overdoses from a secret compartment inside a load of Mexican produce heading into Arizona.

The drug was found hidden Saturday morning in a compartment under the rear floor of a tractor-trailer after a scan during a secondary inspection indicated “some anomalies” in the load, and the agency’s police dog team alerted officers to the presence of drugs, Nogales CBP Port Director Michael Humphries said.

Most of the seized fentanyl with an overall street value of about $3.5 million was in white powder form, but about 2 pounds of it (1 kilogram) was contained in pills. Agents also seized nearly 395 pounds (179 kilograms) of methamphetamine with a street value of $1.18 million, Humphries said.

“The size of a few grains of salt of fentanyl, which is a dangerous opioid, can kill a person very quickly,” Humphries said. The seizure, he said, had prevented an immeasurable number of doses of the drug “that could have harmed so many families.”

READ MORE: Case of B.C. man caught with 27,500 fentanyl pills thrown out due to Charter breach

President Donald Trump praised the bust in a tweet Thursday, writing: “Our great U.S. Border Patrol Agents made the biggest Fentanyl bust in our Country’s history. Thanks, as always, for a job well done!”

The Drug Enforcement Administration said the previous largest U.S. seizure of fentanyl had been in August 2017 when it captured 145 pounds (66 kilograms) of the drug in a Queens, New York, apartment that was linked to the Sinaloa Cartel. Before that, the largest recorded fentanyl seizure was 88 pounds (40 kilograms) nabbed from a pickup truck in Bartow County, Georgia.

Mexican traffickers have been increasingly smuggling the drug into the United States, mostly hidden in passenger vehicles and tractor-trailers trying to head through ports of entry in the Nogales, Arizona, and San Diego areas.

Doug Coleman, the DEA’s special agent in charge for the Phoenix division, expressed admiration for size of the recent bust, emphasizing that it was not the product of any intelligence from his agency but rather “pure, old fashioned police work” by the agent who pulled the truck over.

“It was totally a cold hit” based on the agent’s hunch, Coleman said.

Fentanyl has caused a surge in fatal overdoses around the U.S., including the 2016 accidental death of pop music legend Prince, who consumed the opioid in counterfeit pills that looked like the narcotic analgesic Vicodin.

U.S. law enforcement officials say the illicit version of the painkiller is now seen mostly as a white powder that can be mixed with heroin for an extra kick as well as blue pills that are counterfeits of prescription drugs like oxycodone.

READ MORE: There have been 1,380 overdose deaths in B.C. this year: Coroner

The legal prescription form of the drug is used mostly to provide relief to cancer patients suffering unbearable pain at the end of their lives.

DEA officials have said that while 85 per cent of the illicit fentanyl entering the United States from Mexico is seized at San Diego-area border crossings, an increasing amount is being detected on the border with Arizona, a state where the Sinaloa cartel controls the drug trade and fatal fentanyl overdoses are rising.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in a recent report that fentanyl is now the drug most often involved in fatal overdoses across the country, accounting for more than 18,000, or almost 29 per cent, of the 63,000 overdose fatalities in 2016.

Anita Snow, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATED: Interior Health to add 495 long-term seniors care beds

Nelson, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton to receive new facilities

Graffiti sprayed on 100 Mile Community Hall

‘We’re having a hard time through this COVID’

Have you been following the Justin Trudeau and WE Charity story?

The weekly web poll for the 100 Mile Free Press

Highway 97 to be repaved in 100 Mile House following complaints

‘It’s been over a month now since those holes have been developing’

South Cariboo piano students see success at online exams

‘I like learning new songs and then actually getting to play them well’

Recent surge in COVID-19 cases not unexpected amid Phase Three of reopening: B.C.’s top doc

Keep circles small, wear masks and be aware of symptoms, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

Baby raccoon rescued from 10-foot deep drainage pipe on Vancouver Island

‘Its cries were loud, pitiful and heartbreaking,’ Saanich animal control officer says

Statistical flaws led to B.C. wolf cull which didn’t save endangered caribou as estimated

Study finds statistical flaws in an influential 2019 report supporting a wolf cull

Windows broken, racist graffiti left on Okanagan home

Family says nothing like this has happened since they moved to Summerland in 1980s

B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’ charged with sex assault of teenage boys

The man, 75, is accused of assaulting teenage boys he met through Coquitlam-area churches

B.C.’s potential deficit $12.5 billion as spending spikes, taxes drop

Finance Minister Carole James gives COVID-19 outlook

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit

‘Trauma equals addiction’: Why some seek solace in illicit drugs

Part 2: Many pushed into addiction by ‘toxic stress,’ says White Rock psychologist

Most Read