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US citizen arrested at California checkpoint with $130k in fentanyl pills


An American citizen was arrested on Wednesday after attempting to smuggle $130,000 worth of fentanyl pills through a California immigration checkpoint, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Thursday.

Border Patrol agents at the El Centro Sector checkpoint in Indio said a ride-share taxi driver with four passengers entered the inspection area – which is on Highway 86 near the Salton Sea – at around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

The vehicle was sent to the secondary inspection area for further investigation, where a K-9 team specializing in concealed humans and narcotics detection received permission from the taxi driver to search the vehicle.

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Fentanyl seized at California border

A backpack and a speaker containing 9.7 pounds of fentanyl pills, with an estimated street value of $130,000, were seized at a California immigration checkpoint on Wednesday, CBP said. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

The K-9 alerted authorities to the vehicle’s trunk, which contained several bags, and then specifically alerted to a backpack and a speaker. A passenger, who was not named and only identified as a U.S. citizen, said both belonged to him.

When searching both items, Border Patrol agents found “several wrapped packages consistent with wrapping commonly used to transport illegal narcotics,” the agency said.

A sample taken from one of the wrapped packages tested positive for fentanyl.

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The packages were determined to have 9.7 pounds of fentanyl pills, which have an estimated street value of $130,000, CBP said.

The passenger was arrested and turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Person arrested by Border Patrol agents

The passenger, who was only identified as a U.S. citizen, was arrested by El Center Border Patrol agents and turned over to the Drug Enforcement Agency. (US Border Patrol El Centro Sector/Facebook)

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The El Centro Sector said the seizure is part of Operation Apollo, a joint regional operation with federal, state and local agencies aimed at fighting the threat of fentanyl and other illicit synthetic narcotics.

In the past few days, the checkpoint said agents have apprehended the following: a fugitive wanted for federal probation violation stemming from cocaine smuggling, a criminal with a no-bail felony warrant out of San Bernardino, 9.3 pounds of marijuana, 6.5 pounds of meth and $31,794.



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