Mexican National Pleads Guilty To Smuggling Fentanyl Across The Border

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

A Mexican national faces life in prison after admitting Thursday to smuggling more than 10 pounds of heroin and the synthetic opioid fentanyl across the border.

Agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested 35-year-old Roberto Esmerardo Lopez-Gaxiola on March 14 at an immigration checkpoint near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. After becoming suspicious agents searched Lopez-Gaxiola’s vehicle, discovering 9.25 pounds of heroin and 1.46 pounds of fentanyl stowed away inside car, reports KFOX14.

Lopez-Gaxiola told agents during his arrest that he was promised payment for delivering the narcotics supply to Albuquerque, New Mexico. He pleaded guilty to narcotics trafficking charges in federal court in Las Cruces Thursday, facing a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life. (RELATED: Heroin Dealer Faces Life In Prison After Pleading Guilty To Causing 27 Opioid Overdoses, Including Nine That Proved Fatal)

Large quantities of narcotics continue to infiltrate the U.S. due to the relentless efforts of traffickers, however, authorities are stepping up efforts to interdict the dangerous substances, particularly opioids.

Border patrol agents stopped three individuals July 10 at an immigration checkpoint near Alamogordo, New Mexico, for a routine vehicle inspection. A subsequent search revealed seven kilos, or roughly 15 pounds of heroin stashed inside the car.

Authorities stopped an unnamed 42-year-old woman at the Nogales Station immigration checkpoint in Arizona on July 11 as she was crossing in a van for a routine secondary immigration inspection. Agents found four packages of heroin hidden in her clothing during a subsequent search of the woman.

Opioid seizures by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents nearly doubled from 579 pounds in 2013 to 1,135 pounds in 2017, a recent report from Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill shows.

Heroin continues to be the most common opioid coming across the border, with seizures increasing by 73 percent in 2017 to 662 pounds. Seizures of fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, rose by 72 percent in 2017.

Drug overdoses, fueled by opioids, are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.

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