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HSI Arizona and partners seize substantial amounts of deadly drugs during 2-month surge

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations’ (OFO) Tucson Field Office, and Border Patrol’s Tucson and Yuma Sectors announced the results of drug interdiction operations along the border and throughout the state of Arizona from March 6 through May 8. HSI and OFO’s Operation Blue Lotus, along with the U.S. Border Patrol’s Four Horsemen operation, seized substantial amounts of methamphetamine and interdicted more than a ton of fentanyl.

“The success of this initiative is largely attributed to the federal, state and local partners that spent countless hours not just by responding to port calls but assisting HSI with seizures throughout Arizona,” said HSI Arizona Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown. “Drugs, but especially fentanyl, are decimating communities. But together and with education, we all can make a significant impact in curbing the senseless deaths associated with the sale of these deadly drugs. I thank every agent, officer, trooper and anyone else that stood alongside HSI throughout the surge to support many of our efforts.”

Numerous county attorneys’ offices are prosecuting cases tied to the operation. Drug cases referred federally for prosecution include the following:

  • United States v. Guadalupe Trujillo-Quintana and Sabrina Renee Alaniz-Lopez: A driver and his passenger were each charged after their Dodge Challenger was referred to secondary inspection at the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales and X-rayed. Customs and Border Protection officers found 156 packages of pills that field-tested positive for fentanyl, with a total weight of 94 kilograms.
  • United States v. Kevin Rodriguez-Ballesteros: A driver and sole occupant was charged after his Ford Lobo was referred to secondary inspection in Nogales and X-rayed. Further inspection resulted in the seizure of 236 packages that field-tested positive for fentanyl, with a total weight of 188.56 kilograms.
  • United States v. Adela Baez: A driver was accompanied by her two minor children. At the Lukeville Port of Entry, a canine alerted to the odor of narcotics emanating from her Chevrolet Traverse. Subsequent investigation resulted in the interdiction of 32 packages that field-tested positive for fentanyl, with a total weight of 33.12 kilograms.
  • United States v. Elvia Canez: A driver and sole occupant was charged after her Dodge Grand Caravan was referred to secondary inspection at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, and subsequent X-ray showed packages in the quarter panels and seats of the vehicle. In total, 73 packages were interdicted that field-tested positive for fentanyl, with a total weight of 54.81 kilograms.
  • United States v. Isidro Pantoja-Ramirez: A driver and sole occupant of a Ford F-150 presented at the immigration checkpoint located near Wellton, Arizona, and was referred to secondary inspection after a canine alerted to the vehicle. During the subsequent search, 16 vacuum sealed packages containing small blue pills were inside the tailgate and in the spare tire on the vehicle’s undercarriage. The pills field-tested positive for fentanyl, and had a total weight of 62.5 kilograms.
  • United States v. Melody Karina Romero Quezada: A driver and her passenger, driving a Honda HR-V, approached the Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 19 outside Amado, Arizona. A Border Patrol canine alerted to the vehicle, and further investigation revealed a trap door to a hidden compartment. Inside the compartment, Border Patrol agents located 114 bundles that field-tested positive for fentanyl, with a total weight of 14 kilograms.
  • United States v. Zulma Corrales-Hernandez and Manuel Mendoza-Gonzalez: A driver and his passenger were charged after applying for entry into the United States at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales. The defendants and their Mazda CX-7 were referred to secondary inspection where a Z-Portal X-ray scan led to the removal of 588 packages that field-tested positive for fentanyl, with a total weight of 73.90 kilograms.
  • United States v. Rosio Lopez Carrillo: A driver, accompanied by a minor child, applied for entry to the United States at the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales. After a canine detected the odor of narcotics coming from his Volkswagen Touareg, the defendant was referred to secondary inspection. Following a search, 65 packages that field-tested positive for fentanyl were removed from the vehicle, with a total weight of 46.70 kilograms.
  • United States v. Jeancarlos Reyes: The defendant, accompanied by his girlfriend and two children, applied for admission at the San Luis Port of Entry in his GMC Sierra. After a canine alerted to the odor of narcotics, he was referred to secondary inspection, resulting in the interdiction of 201 packages of suspected drugs in the doors of the vehicle, including 131 packages that field-tested positive for fentanyl, with a total weight of 38.54 kilograms.

Department of Homeland Security law enforcement personnel interdicted more than just drugs during these operations. The facts underlying United States v. Jesus Castillo Durazo reflect quick work by agents with HSI and the Casa Grande Border Patrol Station, with assistance from the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in interdicting crates of .50-caliber ammunition bound for Mexico.

“Thanks to the efforts of our partners at the Department of Homeland Security, we prevented substantial amounts of fentanyl and other drugs from reaching Arizona neighborhoods,” said U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino. “These operations resulted in interdictions at four different ports of entry in addition to two checkpoints, and we appreciate the fine efforts of the law enforcement officers and their canine partners.”

“The successes we’ve seen at our ports cannot be overstated. Our continued layered enforcement actions, our entire team’s dedication to protecting the homeland, and collaboration with our federal partners are key to fulfilling our mission,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection Director of Field Operations Guadalupe Ramirez.

“Collaborative efforts like these are critical to protecting towns and cities across the country,” said Tucson Sector Border Patrol Chief John Modlin. “Border security is national security, and I am immensely proud of the men and women who performed these operations to keep drugs like fentanyl from reaching our communities.”

“The success of the Four Horsemen operation was due to the collaborative efforts and teamwork of multiple agencies. I am especially proud of the Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents who worked tirelessly during this operation to take deadly drugs off our streets and out of the communities we proudly serve,” said Chief Patrol Agent of the Yuma Sector Patricia McGurk-Daniel.

A complaint or indictment is simply a method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Originally published at https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/hsi-arizona-and-partners-seize-substantial-amounts-deadly-drugs-during-2-month-surge

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