Fentanyl seizures at the US border with Mexico continued to increase in 2022, with multiple seizures setting various records throughout the year.
“Ten years ago we didn’t even know about fentanyl, and now it’s a national crisis,” U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in a news release in August. “The amount of fentanyl we seize at the border is staggering.”
Grossman’s comments came as the Department of Justice revealed that ports of entry in San Diego and Imperial counties in Southern California were at the center of an increase in fentanyl seizures at the border, accounting for around 60% of seizures of the deadly drug in 2022.
However, this increase has been seen in ports across the border, with law enforcement on the Mexican and U.S. side experiencing record meltdowns in 2022. Here are some of the border fentanyl meltdowns that made headlines in 2022.
Rio Grande Valley Sector Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agent Gloria I. Chavez announced earlier this month that Sector Border Patrol agents made the “largest” fentanyl bust. liquid in the history of the United States.
“Fentanyl Bust!!! Extremely proud of our USBP & @NuecesCoSo agents [Nueces County Sheriff’s Office] authorities who worked together, interdicted and seized the largest amount of liquid #fentanyl in US history during a traffic stop in Robstown, TX,” Chavez tweeted.
Chavez detailed the bust in later posts, saying officers found 25 pounds, or three gallons, of liquid fentanyl hidden in a compartment inside a gas tank and that the market value of the seizure was of $1.8 million.
“This lethal amount is enough to kill a population of 5.665 million people, or 2.5 times the size of Houston, Texas,” Chavez added.
Border agents at the Nogales Port of Entry in Arizona seized 1.5 million fentanyl tablets in a single week, according to an announcement by Port Director Michael Humphries earlier this month.
“The pills were blue, multicolored and rainbow,” Humphries said on Twitter.
Humphries said the smugglers tried various ways to hide the pills while crossing the border, including hiding them in gas tanks, floors, doors and vehicle panels.
The same Arizona port that saw more than a million pills in a week picked up the pace on an October weekend, grabbing around 500,000 fentanyl pills in two days.
Humphries announced on Twitter that port officials stopped three loads of fentanyl on October 22, including a load with 114,800 pills in a dashboard and 297,000 pills hidden in a single car.
Officers were back the next day when they stopped two shipments of fentanyl pills from people smugglers trying to cross the border, including 134,200 pills found in the underbody of a car.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced in October that Carlos Martin Quintana-Arias, a Mexican national, had been sentenced to 108 months in prison after officers made a record seizure of fentanyl and methamphetamine at the port of entrance to Otay Mesa in California.
“This was a brazen attempt to smuggle a record amount of deadly narcotics into our country, and as this conviction reflects, those seeking to make a quick profit from smuggling narcotics will be subject to ‘vigorous investigations and prosecutions,’ Chad Plantz, Special Agent in Charge, HSI San Diego, said in an ICE news release announcing the sentencing. “HSI, along with our federal and local partners, is firmly committed to dismantling criminal organizations that blatantly ignore the laws of this nation.”
According to the press release, Quintana-Arias used a commercial trailer to attempt to smuggle 17,584 pounds of methamphetamine and 388.93 pounds of fentanyl across the border, the “largest country in each drug category for women.” calendar years 2021 and 2022 to date”.
“This massive seizure prevented an enormous amount of deadly drugs from saturating our community,” U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in the statement. “Thanks to the vigilance of the border agents, this fentanyl did not kill anyone, and this methamphetamine did not destroy a single life.”
Mexican police, conducting a traffic stop in the northern border state of Sonora, found 660 pounds of fentanyl stuffed into coconuts they said were destined for the US border.
Officers stopped the truck traveling on a highway that runs along the Gulf of California. This road eventually leads to the Mexican town of Sonoyta, a border town near Lukeville, Arizona.
Two people have been arrested in connection with the bust.