(NEW YORK) — A recent seizure of $5 million worth of fentanyl in New York City revealed a new tactic cartels are using to smuggle drugs into the United States, prosecutors and federal drug agents said Wednesday.
Approximately 300,000 fake oxycodone pills containing fentanyl and more than 11 pounds of powdered fentanyl were recently recovered from the gas tank of an SUV, according to the New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office.
“This seizure demonstrates one of the many ways evil drug cartels, like the Sinaloa cartel, smuggle fentanyl from Mexico to major cities like New York for street distribution,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge Frank Tarentino said in a statement.
The vehicle, a red Ford Expedition with Texas plates, was stopped in the Bronx on Sunday, where a task force of DEA agents and NYPD officers discovered a hidden compartment that accessed the gas tank from inside the SUV, prosecutors said.
The fentanyl pills and powdered fentanyl were contained in vacuum-sealed packages and submerged in the vehicle’s gas tank, according to New York City special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan.
“At a time when our city’s overdose rates are at a record high, the discovery of more than 11 pounds of powdered fentanyl and hundreds of thousands of fentanyl pills manufactured to look like prescription pills, concealed in the gas tank of a truck near the Bronx Court House, is truly alarming,” Brennan said in a statement.
The fentanyl seized from the Ford Expedition is believed to have originated in Mexico, and the investigation revealed that the vehicle has crossed the U.S.-Mexico border multiple times, according to prosecutors.
The driver — identified by prosecutors as Enrique Perez, 44, of Columbus, Ohio — was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance. Bail was set at $200,000 during an arraignment hearing on Monday.
“Thanks to this investigation, hundreds of thousands of dangerous pills were taken off the streets of the Bronx,” Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said in a statement. “These fake oxycodone pills containing fentanyl would have ruined so many lives and would have likely killed many.”
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