Arizona Police, Feds Seize 45,000 Fentanyl Pills in Two Operations

Fentanyl pills seized in Phoenix. (File Photo: Drug Enforcement Administration)
File Photo: Drug Enforcement Administration

Two separate investigations by Phoenix police narcotics investigators and a joint Bureau of Indian Affairs and Drug Enforcement Administration operation resulted in the seizure of 45,000 fentanyl pills this past week. One incident occurred in west Phoenix while the second took place on an Indian reservation that sits on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The first seizure took place on Tuesday when Phoenix Police Department narcotics detectives received information from a patrol officer about possible illegal activity at a Motel 6 located near 59th Avenue and Interstate 10 on the city’s west side. A patrol officer arrested an adult female identified inside one of the rooms at that location.

During the arrest of the female, patrol officers observed drug ledgers and other items recognized to be drug paraphernalia which led to the request for assistance from narcotics detectives. Upon the arrival of detectives, the investigators detained a 38-year-old male identified as Emmanuel Romero Hernandez. Detectives then searched the room and discovered approximately 15,000 fentanyl pills, two handguns, scales, multiple cell phones, and more than $9,000 in cash. After being interviewed, Hernandez claimed that he was given $5,000 dollars by two men he met the day before who allegedly told him to hold on to the fentanyl pills. Police transported Hernandez to the Maricopa County Jail and charged with possession of narcotic drugs for sale, money laundering, and misconduct involving weapons, according to a KTAR report.

The second seizure resulted from a joint operation involving opioid task force with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) related to a Mexican drug trafficking organization. The traffickers allegedly smuggled large quantities of fentanyl pills and other drugs from Mexico through U.S. points of entry into the  Nation lands, according to the Interior Department this Friday. The task force also consisted of state, local, and tribal officials who in 2018 began the investigation. The operation utilized undercover BIA agents who purchased the fentanyl pills and more than $100,000 worth of other drugs on Arizona tribal lands. The controlled drug buys resulted in the arrests of three non-Indian suspects.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate that according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. The illicit drug has been attributed to the alarming increase in opioid overdose deaths throughout the United States.

Robert Arce is a retired Phoenix Police detective with extensive experience working Mexican organized crime and street gangs. Arce has worked in the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, and recently completed a three-year assignment in Monterrey, Mexico, working out of the Consulate for the United States Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Program, where he was the Regional Program Manager for Northeast Mexico (Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas.) You can follow him on Twitter. He can be reached at


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