Stashing fentanyl pills in condoms and a woman’s bra, four suspects are accused of smuggling thousands of pills through San Diego ports of entry at the U.S.-Mexico border, authorities confirm.
The office of Adam L. Braverman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, said Tuesday that federal prosecutors had filed drug trafficking charges against four defendants allegedly involved in the fentanyl pill trafficking ring: Dianna Dominguez, of San Diego, and Felix Inzunza-Dominguez, Jr., Norma Macias-Dominguez, and Tanairi Ponce, all three of Tijuana, Mexico.
The four are charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. If convicted, they each face a maximum sentence of life in prison or a minimum penalty of 10 years in custody.
The foursome was busted Monday through an undercover operation in which federal agents obtained more than 10,000 fentanyl pills from the group after they crossed the border.
According to a federal complaint, undercover agents had been negotiating with a known drug trafficker in Tijuana back in December, looking to purchase about 4,000 fentanyl pills at a cost of $24,000. The trafficker did not know he was talking with an agent.
After that conversation, the trafficker arranged for Dominguez, Inzunza-Dominguez Jr., Macias-Dominguez and Ponce to smuggle the pills through the San Diego ports of entry. The smugglings were to take place on Jan. 7.
That morning, according to the complaint, Dominguez, Inzunza-Dominguez Jr., and Macias-Dominguez crossed into the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Dominguez drove Inzunza-Dominguez Jr. – who is her father – and Macias-Dominguez to the parking lot of a Walmart where Inzunza-Dominguez planned to meet the undercover agent to deliver the pills.
After parking, Macias-Dominguez walked away from the car. Dominguez texted the undercover agent to say her father was walking over to meet him with the drugs.
Carrying a bag, Inzunza-Dominguez Jr. walked over to the undercover agent and handed him 4,000 fentanyl pills, expecting to receive the $24,000 payment that had been agreed upon.
The complaint said the bag contained two condoms filled with pills, “believed to be the smugglers’ method of concealing the fentanyl as they entered the United States.”
The three suspects were arrested by authorities on suspicion of smuggling the pills.
Prior to this interaction, officials said Macias-Dominguez and Inzunza-Dominguez, Jr., had each delivered 1,000 fentanyl pills to an undercover agent in exchange for $8,000 per drug deal.
After the trio was busted, the complaint said the undercover agent told the trafficker with whom he had been negotiating in Tijuana that he had not received the fentanyl pills as requested in the deal with Inzunza-Dominguez Jr.
The undercover agent said he wanted another 2,000 fentanyl pills delivered to him.
The trafficker recruited Ponce to make that delivery. Ponce placed 2,000 fentanyl pills in her bra, crossed the border and delivered the drugs to the agent, the documents said. Combined, the pills stuffed inside her bra weighed nearly 300 grams.
Ponce was arrested. The complaint said she had a business card in her possession with the undercover agent’s phone number on it.
On Tuesday, all four suspects entered not guilty pleas. They are scheduled to appear in court Friday for a detention hearing.
Braverman’s office said several agencies worked together to crack down on the fentanyl trafficking ring, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
The San Ysidro Port of Entry in south San Diego County is the busiest land border crossing between the U.S. and Mexico. Each day, it is used by 70,000 northbound vehicles and 20,000 northbound pedestrians.