The Arizona District of the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday that Mexican resident Juan Alfonso Torres-Rodriguez, 27, has been charged with possessing over 1 million fentanyl pills with an intent to sell them in the state.
According to the DOJ’s report, officials witnessed Torres-Rodriguez participating in a drug transaction in early March. From there, authorities searched his residency and vehicle to discover approximately 108 kilograms of fentanyl.
“A conviction for Possessing 400 Grams or More of Fentanyl for Distribution carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison with a maximum penalty of life in prison, a fine of up to $10,000,000, and five years up to a lifetime of supervised release,” according to the report.
— US Attorney Arizona (@USAO_AZ) March 22, 2023
However, a charge is merely an allegation of a crime, and the suspect is innocent until proven guilty. This investigation was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
According to the DEA, fentanyl is highly deadly, and just 2 milligrams of the substance can be fatal to users, depending on their tolerance. Forty-two percent of illicit fentanyl pills tested by the administration contain over this lethal amount. If Torres-Rodriguez’s stash resembled this 42 percent statistic, he could have caused around 420,000 overdoses with his supply.
As reported by ABC 15, the DEA has issued a warning stating that it has found Xylazine, a heavy sedative only approved for animals, is being mixed into illicit fentanyl pills. Reportedly, combining the two substances creates a more potent high when taken but also puts users at a higher risk of death. Because Xylazine is not an opioid like fentanyl, the opioid treatment medicine, Narcan, is less effective in preventing an overdose.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited the Nogales sector Tuesday with Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs. During his visit, he announced that a new action by DHS, called Operation Blue Lotus, had made some significant accomplishments since it launched on March 13th.
The operation involves using more sophisticated scanning technology, more drug-sniffing dogs, and more targeted inspections by border patrol agents to catch more drugs being smuggled and build more criminal cases against the drug suppliers. Since its launch, Blue Lotus has reportedly led to 900 pounds of fentanyl, 700 pounds of methamphetamine, and 100 pounds of cocaine being seized across the southern border.
Moreover, DHS also shared that new scanning technology was recently installed at the Nogales Port of Entry to increase screening capacity. Port Director Michael Humphries shared that his officers made two massive fentanyl busts on Friday and Saturday, totaling in over 2.5 million pills being confiscated.
Two days, two huge loads, 2.5 million fentanyl pills.
On Friday, CBP officers found approximately 829,000 fentanyl pills in the quarter panels of a car.
On Saturday, officers took down approximately 1,663,040 fentanyl pills hidden throughout a pickup truck. pic.twitter.com/EAjFTxVqxJ
— Port Director Michael W. Humphries (@CBPPortDirNOG) March 21, 2023
At the end of February, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security. According to Lamb, since the Biden administration took office, fentanyl seizures in his county have increased by 610 percent. Not only that but instances of human smuggling have also increased by 377 percent.
“Despite our best efforts to stop these drugs before they enter any further into our communities, the sad realization is we are only catching a fraction of these smuggling attempts. We are having very little impact on these transnational criminal organizations’ bottom line,” Lamb said.
Moreover, he said that fentanyl is not just a problem for Arizona because whatever makes it across the border often gets shipped out to states nationwide.
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