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The sensitive nose of a drug-sniffing dog has led to what federal officials say is the largest seizure in U.S. history of fentanyl, the synthetic opioid blamed for the majority of overdose deaths.
Customs and Border Protection officers said Thursday they discovered 254 pounds of the drug hidden in a floor compartment of a truck loaded with cucumbers. They also found 395 pounds of methamphetamine.
CBP valued the fentanyl at $3.5 million and the methamphetamine at $1.1 million.
The seizure was more twice the size of the apparent previous record of 118 pounds which was found in a truck stopped by state troopers in Nebraska in 2017.
In the latest case, the tractor-trailer was stopped Saturday trying to enter the U.S. through the border checkpoint in Nogales, Arizona.
Authorities said it was driven by a 26-year-old man who was arrested and charged with possessing drugs with the intent to distribute them. His identity and nationality were not immediately available.
Michael Humphries, Nogales Area Port Director, praised his staff for the record-breaking arrest.
"Their attention to small details that is necessary to make these types of seizures is incredible."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fentanyl was responsible for more than 28,400 overdose deaths in 2017, the latest year for which figures are available.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the drug is up to 100 times stronger than morphine.
"Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and actually don’t know that they are purchasing fentanyl — which often results in overdose deaths," the FDA said.
Most of the illicitly produced fentanyl in the United States comes from Mexico.