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Nogales CBP agents seize 9K fentanyl tablets stashed in bicycle

Nogales-area U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized 9,000 fentanyl pills worth an estimated $24,500 stuffed in the frame of a bicycle on Friday, authorities said.

A 37-year-old man was arrested after CBP officials at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales sawed through the bicycle's crossbar to find 2.25 pounds of the drug, said Teresa Small, a CBP spokeswoman.

Michael Humphries, the director of the Nogales Port, announced the seizure via Twitter, and congratulated his officers for intercepting the stash.

"Excellent catch and great work," Humphries wrote. "Nogales! Thank you for continuing to protect our communities!"

In images shared on Twitter, a silver-framed Diamondback mountain bike is shown with the frame sliced through with a reciprocating saw. Dozens of loose pills are packed into hollow tube-frame, after the drugs were discovered by the Office of Field Operations—the part of CBP that is responsible for controlling U.S. border crossings.

Since October 2021, CBP officials have seized 5,309 pounds of fentanyl along the U.S. border, including  over 1,000 pounds in March. However, the agency is on pace to discover a slightly smaller amount of the drug compared to last year.

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 counterfeit pills.

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Fentanyl pills found stashed in a bicycle frame by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers Friday in Nogales, Ariz.