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

Posted: Updated:

By ANITA SNOW
Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) - U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials announced Thursday their biggest fentanyl bust ever, saying they captured nearly 254 pounds (114 kilograms) of the deadly synthetic opioid 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 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.

"It is said that a quarter-milligram, or 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."

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.

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.

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.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials have said that while 85 percent 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 percent, of the 63,000 overdose fatalities in 2016.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • New Jersey SlideshowsGalleriesMore>>

  • Your New Jersey 2019 Holiday Photos

    Your New Jersey 2019 Holiday Photos

    From sparking holiday lights to fun Santa photos, News 12 wants to see your holiday photos!
    From sparking holiday lights to fun Santa photos, News 12 wants to see your holiday photos!
  • 2019 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting

    2019 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting

    2019 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting2019 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting
    2019 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting2019 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting
    The 87th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting ceremony was held Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019 in New York.
    The 87th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting ceremony was held Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019 in New York.
  • Your December 2019 Storm Photos

    Your December 2019 Storm Photos

    Do you have photos of the winter storm from the December 2019 storm? We want to see!
    Do you have photos of the winter storm from the December 2019 storm? We want to see!
sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."