U.S. Border Patrol agents on Monday seized nearly 250 pounds of pills containing fentanyl — a haul worth close to $3.7 million — that were hidden in a truck that had earlier in the morning crossed the international border.
An agent assigned to the Campo Border Patrol Station stopped the black 2015 GMC Sierra pickup around 3 a.m., after noting what he believed to be suspicious behavior by the driver, on Interstate 8 east near the Golden Acorn Casino, according to news releases from the Border Patrol and federal prosecutors.
The agent, and others who eventually joined him, learned later that the truck and its driver had crossed the border around 1:30 a.m. in San Ysidro, officials said. They also learned another Border Patrol agent had stopped the same pickup and its driver one week earlier and noted abnormalities with its gas tank, though no drugs were found during the first stop.
During Monday morning’s stop, a Border Patrol dog zeroed in on the gas tank and spare tire area, prompting agents to search the vehicle. The agents found dozens of bundles of pills, which the Border Patrol said tested positive for fentanyl, hidden in the truck’s spare tire and gas tank.
The drugs have a street value of more than $3,679,000, federal authorities said.
Border Patrol agents seized the vehicle and turned over the fentanyl to the Drug Enforcement Administration. They arrested the truck’s driver, a 24-year-old U.S. citizen who lives in Tijuana.
The driver was charged Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Diego with one count of possessing a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
Fentanyl now is the leading cause of death of people ages 18 to 45 in the county and the country, according to county officials. Last month, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors declared illegal fentanyl a public health crisis.
In San Diego County, at least 817 deaths have been classified as unintentional fentanyl overdoses in 2021 by the county Medical Examiner’s Office. In 2019, the number of fentanyl overdose deaths in the county was approximately 151.