One week after making what was considered a record fentanyl bust at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers set a new seizure record.
U.S. Citizen Fernando Jesus Peraza was arrested at the border Aug. 8 with more than 20,000 fentanyl pills concealed in the rear quarter panel of his vehicle.
The seizure is believed to be the largest single-port seizure of fentanyl pills across the southwest border of the U.S, U.S Attorney Adam Braverman said.
On Thursday, Nov. 15, Peraza pleaded guilty in federal court to importing the pills.
His sentencing is scheduled for February 1, 2019. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in custody.
Cristian Araujo Aguirre was arrested Aug. 1 with just short of 11,500 fentanyl pills hidden in a storage compartment in his vehicle.
In both cases, the pills were designed to look like oxycodone, complete with the M30 marking on the pills but tested positive for fentanyl.
Mexican traffickers who used to move powdered fentanyl through the ports of entry are now moving the illegal drug as counterfeit oxycontin, according to one federal prosecutor.
“This is the biggest fentanyl pill seizure we’ve seen along the Southwest Border, and it’s likely a national record,” Braverman said. “I’m relieved that these pills are off the streets because of the vigilant work of law enforcement. But that relief is tempered by the fact that people are overdosing every day because they took fentanyl-laced pills just like these, oblivious to the deadly consequences.”
Peraza is scheduled to appear in court on Friday.
Aguirre entered a not guilty plea to charges of smuggling illegal drugs and claimed he was asked to drive the car by a friend who walked across the U.S.-Mexico border. Sixty-one pounds of methamphetamine and 14 pounds of heroin were also found in Aguirre’s car.
Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more powerful and deadly than morphine, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office.