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Border Patrol agents nab 250 lbs. of meth worth $181K near Gila Bend
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Border Patrol agents nab 250 lbs. of meth worth $181K near Gila Bend

A woman driving near Gila Bend was arrested by U.S. Border Patrol agents after they discovered more than 120 pounds of methamphetamine worth an estimated $181,000 in her minivan, authorities said.

Around 8 p.m. Thursday, agents on a "roving patrol" decided to stop a gold Honda Odyssey at the junction of Interstate 8 and State Route 85, said Rob Daniels, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection — Border Patrol's parent agency. 

The area around Gila Bend is "known for human and narcotics smuggling," said Daniels. Smugglers "frequently use this route to move narcotics from Ajo and Yuma up to Phoenix and then further into the United States," he said.

After the stop, a drug dog made a "free air search of the vehicle," sniffing on the outside of the minivan. During this search, the dog "alerted" to the presence of "concealed" people or narcotics, Daniels said. 

Agents searched the minivan and found 120 pounds of a white "crystal-like substance" packed into 158 plastic packages. Some of the packages were wrapped up in wool blanket, while other packages were stuffed inside a spare tire. A suitcase contained dozens more packages.

Agents also found $635 in cash and a Smith & Wesson 9 mm pistol, along with two magazines and 19 rounds of ammunition.

The woman — identified only as a U.S. citizen — also had four kids in the car, all under the age of seven. CBP officials said they did not know the woman's relationship to the children and referred additional questions to the Maricopa County Drug Suppression Task Force. 

"Smugglers continue to exploit vulnerable populations both inside and outside the United States," said John Modlin, the Tucson Sector Chief. "Smugglers promise easy cash in exchange for a quick trip to the border, but agents and officers are on the lookout for suspicious vehicles." 

"Thankfully, these agents prevented over 120 pounds of methamphetamine from making its way into communities throughout the United States," Modlin said. 

Daniels said the children were released to a family member, while the vehicle, narcotics and weapon were turned over to Maricopa's task force.

So far this fiscal year, Border Patrol agents nationwide have intercepted 8,200 pounds of methamphetamine, including around 1,500 pounds in the Tucson Sector, according to figures from CBP. 

Last fiscal year — which ran from Oct. 2020 to Sept. 2021 — Border Patrol agents picked up 12,300 pounds of methamphetamine nationwide, and Tucson Sector agents nabbed around 2,300 pounds of the drug. 

This pales in comparison to the amount of methamphetamine intercepted by the Office of Field Operations, which runs the nation's border crossings. So far this fiscal year, OFO officers have picked up 112,000 pounds of methamphetamine nationwide. A year earlier, OFO officers intercepted 180,000 pounds of methamphetamine, including over 16,000 pounds at Arizona ports.

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