Mexico-Based U.S. Citizen Admits Smuggling 450,000 Fentanyl Pills

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

A U.S. citizen who resided in the Mexican border city of Tijuana admitted to smuggling more than 450,000 fentanyl pills from that country into the United States. The drug smuggler made the confession during a guilty plea before a federal judge in a U.S. District Court. The alleged criminal activity occurred during a nine-month conspiracy in 2018.

A U.S. citizen identified as April Spring Kelly, 38, pled guilty to her role in a major drug conspiracy case before U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino according to a media release from the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of California. During the guilty plea. Kelly admits she smuggled more than 450,000 fentanyl pills from Mexico into the United States during a nine-month conspiracy from February to October 2018. She continued, stating she smuggled the fentanyl pills through ports of entry into San Diego, California, and Nogales, Arizona, for subsequent distribution to mid-level distributors in San Diego and Phoenix.

Kelly further admitted to attempting to smuggle 36.24 pounds of methamphetamine, 37.83 pounds of cocaine, and nearly 12 pounds of powdered fentanyl on November 30, 2018, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers arrested her in her vehicle at the San Ysidro Port of Entry the media release continued.

Following Kelly’s guilty plea, she is scheduled to be sentenced on October 11, 2019, before Judge Sammartino.

“San Diego is the gateway for fentanyl to the rest of the country, and we are working aggressively to close that gate, one smuggler and one distributor at a time,” U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said in the media release. “With so many lives at stake, we are pursuing more of these cases than ever.” U.S. Attorney Brewer, who prosecuted the case, praised federal agents from Homeland Security Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He said they are on the front lines of this fentanyl surge.

“Kelly is only 38 years old and she will pay for her actions of pure greed by spending a very long time – potentially life – in prison.  This should serve as a warning to anyone who traffics drugs:  DEA will investigate and arrest you and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers.

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.)

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