Customs and Border Protection officers in Southern California seized more than 50 pounds of blue fentanyl pills. Officers found the deadly drugs in the gas tank of a Ford vehicle.
Officers assigned to the Calexico Port of Entry on June 6 observed a 2014 Ford approaching from Mexico for entry into the United States, according to information obtained from CBP officials.
A narcotic smuggling attempt was stopped by @CBP officers at the #Calexico Port of Entry. During the examination officers discovered more than 50 pounds of fentanyl in the vehicle. #KeepItUp #FrontLine #OTM @DHS
— Director of Field Operations Sidney Aki (@DFOSanDiegoCA) June 21, 2022
Calexico Director of Field Operations Sidney Aki tweeted photos of drugs found inside the fuel tank of the vehicle.
Following an initial interview with the driver, officers referred the driver to a secondary inspection area. The officers conducted a non-intrusive examination of the vehicle, similar to an x-ray, and found anomalies in the gas tank area, officials stated.
The officers removed the 28-year-old driver from the vehicle and proceeded with additional inspections. Officials did not disclose the nationality of the driver.
A K-9 trained in human and drug detection carried out an inspection and alerted the officers to the possible presence of drugs. A physical search of the vehicle and its fuel tank led to the discovery of 43 packages containing blue pills.
The pills tested positive for fentanyl, a deadly drug even in small quantities.
Officers weighed the packages of pills and estimated the value of the 54.85 pounds of fentanyl to be approximately $658,200.
“Our officers’ meticulous attention to detail is what continues to keep our communities safe,” Anne Maricich, CBP Deputy Director of Field Operations in San Diego said in a written statement. “Smugglers will continue to try different methods of crossing contraband, but we are always one step ahead with our advanced technology.”
Officials seized the drugs and the Ford vehicle. They turned the driver over to ICE Homeland Security Investigations for further investigation. He was later transferred to the El Centro Detention Facility.
Tulare County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Unit investigators were called at about 7:30 p.m. to the area of Highway 99 and Tulare Avenue in Tulare to help California Highway Patrol officers with the stop, according to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office.
Detectives said 150 packages containing 1,000 fentanyl pills were hidden inside their vehicle.
The suspects were identified as 25-year-old Jose Zendejas and 19-year-old Benito Madrigal, both of Washington state. No details were immediately available about where the men obtained the drugs or where they were heading. Zendejas and Madrigal were arrested on charges of possession, transportation, and sales of illegal drugs. They were booked at the Tulare County Pre-Trial Facility.
According to a Facebook post, the Tulare County Sheriff announced the two suspects had been released without bail by court order.
“All inmates booked into Tulare County jails are sent through what is known as the Risk Assessment Process through the Tulare County Probation Department. That “Risk Assessment” is then sent to a judge with the court, who, then, determines whether or not the individual arrested is held on bail or if they are to be released.”
The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office said they have “received a court order releasing both suspects from custody on their own recognizance.”
The department noted that Sheriff Boudreaux “strongly disagrees with the release of these individuals as a matter of public safety, the court order release must be followed.”
Once again, California’s soft-on-crime approach has released criminals without any consequence. In this instance, individuals tied to one of the most deadly drug epidemics in the nation have been released and are back on the streets.