On Thursday U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials announced their biggest fentanyl bust ever.
The truck was transporting cucumbers, but stashed inside was something more much dangerous. Officials captured nearly 254 pounds of the synthetic opioid from a load of Mexican produce heading into Arizona hidden Saturday morning inside a tractor-trailer after a scan during secondary inspection indicated something else was in the load. The fentanyl had been placed in hard plastic containers, apparently to avoid any potential exposure to CBP officers. A canine team was used to search the truck, where the found the narcotics.
U.S. CBP officials said it was discovered at the Nogales, Arizona point of entry and the entire cargo was noted to be worth $3.5 million on the street. The bust also included a small number of fentanyl pills and nearly 400 pounds of methamphetamine. They also arrested the man driving the truck.
Potential to Kill
The quantity of fentanyl, which is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, had the potential to kill nearly 56 million people, based on the previously reported numbers from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Officials have said that while 85 percent of the illicit fentanyl is seized at San Diego-area border crossings, an increasing amount is being detected on the Mexican border with Arizona, a state where the Sinaloa cartel controls the drug trade and fatal fentanyl overdoses are rising.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in a recent report that fentanyl is now the drug most often involved in fatal overdoses across the country, accounting for more than 18,000, or almost 29 percent, of the 63,000 overdoses fatalities in 2016.
According to the DEA, ingesting as little as two milligrams of fentanyl, equivalent to a few grains of table salt can be lethal, and the drug has caused a surge in fatal overdoses around the U.S., including the 2016 accidental death of pop music legend Prince, who consumed the opioid in counterfeit pills that looked like Vicodin.
Ports of Entry
Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies drug policy, said most drugs are smuggled into the United States through legal ports of entry. The drugs that do enter the United States are rarely carried by undocumented migrants, she said.
“What drug trafficking groups do quite frequently is they send drugs in multiple cars and trucks in multiple ports of entry, and then they tip off U.S. law enforcement that one of the cars has drugs,” Felbab-Brown said. “They sacrifice that loss to generate attention on it and to facilitate the notion that the other cars will not be checked equally as diligently.”
And with the recent government shutdown, President Trump has insisted his proposal for a border wall will reduce such deaths and stem drug trafficking, but CBP data indicates that the vast majority of fentanyl, methamphetamine and other hard drugs are seized from vehicles attempting to drive through official ports of entry.