A Mexican national was sentenced to 9 years in prison after attempting to enter the United States with a record-breaking 17,584 pounds of methamphetamine and 389 pounds of fentanyl transported in his commercial trailer.
Carlos Martin Quintana-Arias admitted to driving the drug-laden tractor trailer into the United States through the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California. The drugs seized on Nov. 18, 2021, have been declared as the nation’s largest confiscation in each drug category for the calendar years 2021 and 2022 so far, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Quintana-Arias was sentenced on Oct. 14 to 108 months.
Quintana-Arias applied for entry with a manifest that claimed the contents of his trailer as automotive body parts. But anomalies cropped up when the contents were run through an X-ray machine, which alerted officers for further inspection.
“This massive seizure prevented a huge quantity of deadly drugs from saturating our community,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Because of the vigilance of border officials, this fentanyl did not kill anyone, and this meth did not destroy even one life.”
Chad Plantz, special agent in charge, HSI San Diego, said that “This was a brazen attempt to smuggle a record amount of deadly narcotics into our country,” adding that smugglers “looking to make a quick profit from narcotics smuggling will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted.”
The San Diego and Imperial Valley ports of entry account for about “61 percent of all the fentanyl CBP seizes nationwide,” said Acting Director of Field Operations Anne Maricich.
Deploying K-9 teams and imaging systems, CBP officers in the San Diego Field Office made drug busts “totaling over $4.1 million worth at its ports of entry” during the week of Sept. 18–24, according to a CBP statement.
Quintana-Arias was charged under Title 21, U.S.C., Sections 952 and 960 Importation of a Controlled Substance, which carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and a mandatory minimum of 5 years, along with a $5 million fine.
Rise in Deadly Drugs
A two-milligram dose of fentanyl can prove fatal to users while methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. The main source of drugs found in the United States can be traced back to Mexico where cartels manufacture them using chemicals imported from China.
The synthetic opioid is pressed into pills or mixed with other narcotics to increase potency. Law enforcement confiscated 1,232 pounds (559 kilograms) of fentanyl—which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine—from 2016–2018 and 7,710 pounds (3,497 kilograms) from 2019–2021.
Illicit fentanyl accounted for 64 percent of all drug-related deaths in the United States in 2021, according to nonprofit group Families Against Fentanyl. It is the top cause of death among adults aged 18–45, overtaking COVID-19, suicide, and car accidents.
Deaths from fentanyl among teens tripled in just two years. Black teens were affected the most with a five-fold increase of deaths from the substance. Based on the data, 175 deaths occur every day from illegal fentanyl with the drug responsible for killing more than 200,000 Americans since 2015.
The organization has been calling for the categorization of illicit fentanyl as a Weapon of Mass Destruction. This would elicit a government response targeting the top of the supply chain while holding international criminal organizations responsible.