Federal agents say drug traffickers have turned to semi-tractor trailers to smuggle fentanyl and methamphetamine into Texas and other border states. A Drug Enforcement Administration representative said Mexican drug cartels used to rely on passenger vehicles to get drugs into the United States, but they are now placing larger shipments of controlled substances in tractor-trailer gas tanks and hidden compartments. The change in tactics does not seemed to have fooled law enforcement as drug seizures rose significantly in 2020.
Fentanyl seizures up almost 600%
DEA agents in Texas seized more than 700 pounds of the deadly opioid fentanyl in 2020. In 2018 and 2019, the agency seized less than 120 pounds of the drug. The rise in fentanyl shipments is particularly worrying for law enforcement as doses as low as 2 milligrams can be fatal. Methamphetamine seizures in Texas have also risen sharply. Agents in the Lone Star State seized 4,711 kilograms of the drug in 2019, but that figure more than doubled to 9,817 kilograms in 2020.
Traffic stop leads to fentanyl seizure
Large shipments of fentanyl are also being seized by local and state law enforcement agencies. In October 2020, investigators assigned to the Fort Bend County Narcotics Task Force arrested a 49-year-old McAllen man after allegedly discovering about 10,000 fentanyl pills during a traffic stop in Beasly. Investigators say the pills were disguised as Xanax tablets.
Challenging drug searches
The penalties for transporting large quantities of fentanyl and methamphetamine are severe, which can lead suspects facing serious drug charges to believe that cooperating with law enforcement is their best option. Experienced criminal defense attorneys could advise an individual in this situation to remain silent until a lawyer has been given the opportunity to review the police report. This is because drugs seized during the course of a search based on insufficient probable cause may be excluded. Attorneys could also remind suspects that only prosecutors have the authority to offer sentencing or charging concessions in return for cooperation.