$7.2 million in narcotics hidden in ‘medical supplies’ shipment; seizure is second-largest in border history

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Truck and Trailer Seized
Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol discovered more than 3,000 pounds of narcotics hidden inside this commercial trailer, which was carrying a shipment manifested as medical supplies. (Courtesy: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

SAN DIEGO — More than 3,100 pounds of methamphetamine, fentanyl powder and pills, and heroin were seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at California’s Otay Mesa commercial facility on Oct. 9. The seizure was the second-largest methamphetamine bust along the nation’s southwest border in the history of the CBP, according to information from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

“Smugglers will try every way possible to try and get their product across the border and because of the partnership between CBP, Homeland Security investigations and DEA, this significant seizure occurred and we stopped them,” said Anne Maricich, acting CBP director of field operations in San Diego. “I’m proud of the CBP officers’ dedication to our mission; they continue to stop dangerous drugs from entering our communities.”

At about 9:45 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 9, a driver arrived at the cargo border crossing with a tractor-trailer shipment that was manifested as medical supplies; the vehicle was referred for a more intensive inspection.

CBP officers screened the truck using the port’s nonintrusive imaging system and found anomalies in the rear of the trailer. The conveyance was sent to the dock and a canine alerted to the boxes inside the trailer. Officers offloaded the shipment and discovered 1,816 packages of narcotics mingled with the medical supplies, which primarily consisted of clear plastic pipette tips, spray bottles of surface decontaminate, and calibrated pipette tools (used for sampling and dispensing liquid).

Boxes of Narcotics Found in Shipment
Inside the trailer, mingled with packages of surface decontaminate and pipette parts, were approximately 3,014 pounds of methamphetamine, 64 pounds of heroin, 29 pounds of fentanyl powder and almost 37 pounds of fentanyl pills. (Courtesy: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

CBP officers extracted approximately 3,014 pounds of methamphetamine, 64 pounds of heroin, 29 pounds of fentanyl powder and almost 37 pounds of fentanyl pills — in total, worth an estimated $7.2 million. CBP officers seized the narcotics and conveyance.

“This massive seizure is testament of what law-enforcement agencies can do when we combine forces — prevent over $7 million worth of deadly drugs from entering our country; thus saving countless lives from addiction and overdose deaths,” said John Callery, DEA special agent in charge. “DEA cherishes our great law-enforcement partners in San Diego, especially those who work tirelessly to protect our nation’s borders. We will continue to work together to disrupt drug trafficking organizations at every opportunity we are given.”

The driver, a 47–year-old male Mexican citizen, was arrested and turned over the custody of the joint investigative team from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), HSI and DEA pending; he will face criminal charges. (Criminal charges are merely allegations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.)

“This significant seizure is a prime example of how a successful partnership between HSI, CBP and DEA results in the disruption of transnational criminal organizations while protecting our country from dangerous illicit drugs,” said Juan Munoz, acting special agent in charge of HSI in San Diego. “We will continue to work tirelessly to bring those responsible to justice.”

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