44 Pounds of Fentanyl Seized in San Diego County

Fentanyl seized at border
Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

A joint operation involving U.S. Border Patrol agents and the San Diego Sheriff’s Department (SDSO) Border Crime Suppression team seized 44 pounds of fentanyl during a traffic stop Wednesday afternoon. The seizure resulted in the arrests of a 24-year-old female and her 36-year-old boyfriend, both from Fullerton, California.

The seizure and arrests took place at approximately 2:30 pm local time when authorities stopped a 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor for speeding. The vehicle was traveling westbound along State Route 905 in Otay Mesa, near the international border crossing. Border Patrol agents and SDSO detectives utilized a K-9 drug detection team. A search of the vehicle led to the discovery of 20 kilograms of fentanyl in powder form. Investigators estimated the value of the seizure at over $1.5 million, according to local reports.

The driver was reportedly identified as Marilu Escamilla, 24, and her boyfriend, Fernando Camargo, 36, were arrested for felony transportation of a controlled substance and other charges related to possession for sale. Both Escamilla and Camargo are each being held in county jail on a $750,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment set for Friday.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns that fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine and is blamed for the “sharp increase in opioid deaths across the U.S.” In three years, the fentanyl death toll has risen more than 5,000 percent from 2014 to 2017, according to the National Institutes of Health. Fentanyl also poses a risk to law enforcement when processing a scene or seized material. Only a few milligrams on unprotected skin can trigger a life-threatening overdose.

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 robertrarce@gmail.com

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