U.S. citizen sentenced to decade in jail for making an attempt to smuggle 1.6M fentanyl capsules via Nogales

A 40-year-old man was sentenced to 10 years in jail for making an attempt to smuggle round 110 kilos of fentanyl via the Mariposa border crossing in Nogales final December.

Gerardo Hernandez was sentenced by U.S. District Choose Jennifer Zipps throughout a listening to on Nov. 2. Following his jail sentence, Hernandez will face three years probation.

A U.S. citizen, Hernandez was within the passenger seat of 2003 Dodge Caravan when the motive force crossed the U.S.-Mexico border on the Mariposa border crossing in west Nogales.

An officer with CBP requested Hernandez and an unidentified feminine driver, if that they had something within the car, a part of a “binding unfavourable declaration.” The car was pushed to a Z-Portal scanner, which x-rayed the car and located “anomalies in keeping with drug packaging in the back and front seats,” in keeping with a filed criticism.

CBP officers dug into the car and located 43 packages containing 30 milligram tablets. One package deal was examined, and CBP officers discovered it contained fentanyl. All instructed, there have been 1.6 million tablets of fentanyl, weighing round 110 kilos.

In line with court docket information, Hernandez later instructed CBP officers he was recruited by an unnamed particular person on Fb to “make some cash in Mexico.” He mentioned he arrived in Mexico with the motive force, and later went to the grocery retailer in Nogales, Sonora whereas she was at her mom’s home. Whereas on the retailer, Hernandez met an individual who took the car “for an unknown period of time after which returned” to the shop, wrote Jason Cary, a particular agent with Homeland Safety Investigations — part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Hernandez said he wasn’t certain what that they had put inside his car, however he said he knew no matter it was, it was unlawful,” Cary wrote. Hernandez mentioned he anticipated to make $5,000 for taking the car north. He additionally instructed officers he believed there was contraband within the car, however mentioned “he figured it was ‘bud’ or ‘meth’ or perhaps forex.”

“Hernandez said this was his thought solely and that the motive force had no thought he was utilizing her car to smuggle contraband,” CBP officers wrote. Officers later agreed the motive force was “unaware that they had been importing managed substances.”

In an April plea settlement, Hernandez wrote that the car contained 49.9
kilograms of fentanyl stashed within the entrance and rear seats, and that he
knew the car contained a managed substance.”

Final fiscal yr — which ran from Oct. 2022 to Sept. 30, 2023 — CBP officers intercepted 27,000 kilos of fentanyl alongside the Southwestern border. Of that, the lion’s share was intercepted on the nation’s border crossings.

In Arizona, officers on the border crossings intercepted 12,000 kilos of fentanyl final yr, whereas Border Patrol brokers intercepted round 702 kilos, in keeping with CBP statistics. 

Whereas there was rising fury over fentanyl smuggling, knowledge from final yr exhibits fentanyl seizures fell far behind different medication. Final yr, CBP officers intercepted 150,000 kilos of marijuana, 140,000 kilos of methamphetamine, and practically 82,000 kilos of cocaine. Even Khat smuggling — a flowering shrub chewed as a stimulant — outstripped fentanyl smuggling. CBP officers intercepted 70,000 kilos of Khat, however simply 27,000 kilos of fentanyl.

Hernandez already had 11 prior felony convictions and 6 prior misdemeanor convictions since 2002, mentioned Zach Stoebe, a Justice Division spokesman.

HSI and CBP officers performed the investigation, whereas Assistant U.S. Lawyer Kelly Cavanaugh dealt with the prosecution, Stoebe mentioned.