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CBP officers seize 45 lbs. of fentanyl at Douglas border crossing

CBP officers seize 45 lbs. of fentanyl at Douglas border crossing

  • Fentanyl pills stashed in the floor of a car in Douglas, Ariz. The driver, identified only as a Mexican man, was arrested on Wednesday.
    CBP Fentanyl pills stashed in the floor of a car in Douglas, Ariz. The driver, identified only as a Mexican man, was arrested on Wednesday.

A 34-year-old man was arrested Wednesday in Douglas, Ariz. after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers found just over 45 pounds of fentanyl stashed in a compartment in his SUV, authorities said.

The driver, identified only as a Mexican national, was sent to an additional inspection area at the border crossing, where CBP officers removed the vehicle's carpet and discovered the drugs hidden beneath a welded metal plate. CBP officers at the Douglas Port of Entry found 185 packages of blue pills, containing around 180,000 pills, said John Mennell, a CBP spokesman.

Initial testing showed the pills were "positive for the properties of fentanyl," said Mennell in a statement released Friday.

Martin Gomez, the port director for Douglas, praised his officers, saying in a statement: "Continued layered enforcement actions and our entire team’s joint efforts are key to fulfilling our mission of protecting the homeland. Our officers are keeping deadly drugs off our streets."

Officers seized the drugs and vehicle, and the Mexican man was arrested and turned over to Homeland Security Investigations, a part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

This was one of two major seizures of fentanyl at Arizona's ports recently. On Wednesday, CBP officers in Nogales intercepted the drug in three separate incidents, including pills stashed in a car's gas tank and dashboard, as well as pills strapped to a person's body, and hidden in a person's "body cavity." 

All told, CBP officers in Nogales intercepted 304,760 pills, according to a tweet from Michael Humphries, the port director for Nogales. "On Wednesday, CBP officers at the Nogales POE prevented 3 smuggling attempts of fentanyl pills from reaching U.S. communities," he said.

Fentanyl smuggling was a major point of contention between Congressional Republicans and Democrats during a House Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday. House Republicans sought to link the apprehensions of migrants to the rapid increase in fentanyl seizures, while Democrats noted most seizures of fentanyl occur in private and commercials vehicles, while seizures of fentanyl between the nation's ports is relatively rare.

Before 2016, CBP didn't report fentanyl seizures, however that year, the agency's ports found 440 pounds of the drug.

Throughout the Trump administration, fentanyl seizures increased year after year rising from 1,377 pounds during the 2017 fiscal year—which runs from September to October—to 11,499 pounds intercepted during the 2021 fiscal year. Under the Biden administration, fentanyl seizures continue to increase, and in the first four months of 2022, officials intercepted 12,500 pounds of fentanyl.

However, Border Patrol agents account for just 477 pounds of fentanyl. CBP's Air and Marine Operations, who manage the fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, drones and ships along the nation's costs, intercepted about 526 pounds of the drug. Meanwhile, officers at the ports have picked up 12,000 pounds of fentanyl.

All told, CBP officials have intercepted 140,000 pounds of drugs from October to January, according to CBP data.

In January, seizures of drugs declined about 8.9 percent from December, according to a monthly update released Friday. Cocaine seizures dropped 49.5 percent, Methamphetamine seizures decreased 4.1 percent, Heroin seizures decreased 66.4 percent, and fentanyl decreased 77 percent.  

As if to confirm this, on Sunday, Border Patrol agents with a drug dog found five backpacks laden with around 102 pounds of methamphetamine were found near Madera Canyon, south of Tucson. In a tweet Thursday, John Modlin, the chief of the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector, praised the seizure and his agents, writing: "great work preventing these dangerous drugs from reaching our communities."

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