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350 lbs of 'hard drugs' nabbed in Nogales, worth $4.4 million

Nogales-area Customs and Border Protection officers seized nearly 350 pounds of "hard drugs"— including heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and "suspected" fentanyl — worth $4.4 million, during three separate incidents on Saturday, authorities said. 

Two men and one woman were arrested for attempting to smuggle the drugs in passenger cars through both the Dennis DeConcini and Mariposa ports of entry. 

The seizures began on Saturday morning, when CBP officers at the DeConcini crossing arrested a man identified only as 67-year-old from Rio Rio, Ariz., after a drug dog led them to nearly 242 pounds of drugs, worth more than $3.4 million, stashed throughout his Jeep SUV, said Rob Daniels, a CBP spokesman. 

CBP officers seized 103 pounds of cocaine, worth nearly $2.5 million, along with 116 pounds of methamphetamine, worth an estimated $347,000, and 21 pounds of heroin, worth an estimated $560,000, he said. The officers also found 1.5 pounds of "suspected fentanyl," worth almost $20,000. 

A few hours later, at the same crossing, a drug dog also alerted to a Honda sedan. Officers arrested the driver, a 21-year-old man identified only as a resident of Phoenix, after they found 15 pounds of methamphetamine, stashed in two packages stuffed in the car's rear tires, worth nearly $45,000, Daniels said. 

Later that evening, officers at the Mariposa port of entry arrested a 24-year-old Mexican woman after a drug dog led officers to 93 pounds of drugs, worth more than $898,000, stashed throughout her Ford compact sedan, Daniels said.

Officers removed more than 70 packages of drugs, containing 64 pounds of methamphetamine, worth an estimated $197,000, along with 18 pounds of cocaine, worth more than $434,000, Daniels said. The Ford also contained nine pounds of heroin, worth nearly $245,000, and nearly two pounds of "suspected" fentanyl pills, worth around $27,000, Daniels said. 

Officers seized the drugs and vehicles, and handed over the people over to Homeland Security Investigations, a part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

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On Jan. 31, Nogales CBP officers made the largest seizure of fentanyl in the agency's history when they discovered 254 pounds of the drug, worth $3.5 million in the false-floor of a semi-tractor trailer filled with cucumbers. The seizure also included nearly 400 pounds of methamphetamine worth more than $1.1 million, officials said.

The seizures come as agency data shows a marked decline in the seizures of marijuana, which have declined year-after-after since 2015, from nearly 603,000 pounds to nearly 362,000 pounds in 2017. At the same time, cocaine and methamphetamine have increased significantly, while fentanyl has spiked 171 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to CBP data. 

Update: In a previous release, CBP over-estimated the total value of the drugs by about $2 million after miscalculating the value of the 64 pounds of methamphetamine found in a Ford sedan.

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Part of the stash of 'hard drugs' worth nearly $3.4 million found inside a Jeep SUV at the Dennis DeConcini port of entry in Nogales, Ariz. on Saturday.