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Meat 'surprise': Crock-pot seized at Nogales port contains 130,000 fentanyl tablets

Nogales-area U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered 130,000 fentanyl tablets worth an estimated $325,000 stashed in a crock-pot with a ready-made meal on Tuesday, officials said.

Michael Humphries, the director of the Nogales Port of Entry, announced the seizure via Twitter, releasing a series of images, adding that officers "are always hard at work."

"Thank you #CBP Nogales Officers for intercepting this unusual concealment method!" Humphries wrote.

In images shared on Twitter, a crock-pot full of what appears to be pulled pork contained 27 packages of pills, weighing around 33 pounds, tucked below the food after it was discovered by the Office of Field Operations—the part of CBP that is responsible for controlling U.S. border crossings.

The crock-pot was found in Toyota sedan, and officers found the drugs after a dog, undeterred by the food, led officers to the discovery of the drugs.

In the last few years, fentanyl seizures have rapidly increased in Arizona. This includes one record seizure by DEA agents in Phoenix, who seized 1.7 million fentanyl pills and 10 kilograms of fentanyl powder during a single investigation in December.

Last week, an Arizona Department of Public Safety state trooper and a U.S. Border Patrol agent stopped a Volkswagen Jetta on Interstate 10 and discovered more than 36 pounds of Fentanyl pills inside.

The driver, 26-year-old Erick A. Jimenez from Rio Rico, was arrested and booked into the Pima County jail on possession and transportation of a dangerous drug for sale.

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While Fentanyl is often used for pain-management in clinical settings, drug smuggling organizations have increasingly turned to producing illicit fentanyl in clandestine labs, using chemicals purchased from China. The pills are then smuggled into the U.S. through Mexico.

In many cases, Fentanyl is mixed with other illegal drugs to increase the potency, and can be sold as powders and nasal sprays. Fentanyl is increasingly pressed into pills made to look like legitimate prescription opioids, according to the DEA. "Because there is no official oversight or quality control, these counterfeit pills often contain lethal doses of Fentanyl, with none of the promised drug," the DEA said, adding that there is "significant risk that illegal drugs have been intentionally contaminated with Fentanyl," including heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine.

This mixture increases the "likelihood of a fatal interaction," the DEA said. Notably, DEA analysis has found that counterfeit pills can range in potency from .02 to 5.1 milligrams—or more than twice the lethal dose in a single tablet. As the CDC has noted, synthetic opioids including Fentanyl have driven up overdose deaths in the United States by 38.1 percent.

In August 2020, DEA announced a nationwide law enforcement effort, called One Pill Can Kill, to address the availability and lethality of fentanyl-laced fake pills.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized 130,000 tablets in Nogales Tuesday hidden in a crockpot.