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Teens with nearly $2 million in narcotics arrested at Arizona-Mexico border, feds say

The 18-year-olds, who were not immediately identified, were caught after others loaded up the vehicle and then slipped away, authorities said.

Two 18-year-old Arizona residents were arrested near the Mexico border after authorities found nearly $2 million worth of smuggled methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin in their truck, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday.

The arrest by Border Patrol agents Saturday afternoon near Rio Rico happened after other people were seen emerging from some brush and placing packages in the parked truck, CBP said in a statement.

"We've gotten larger seizures, but this one no doubt is sizable, and it is significant," said Border Patrol Agent Daniel Hernandez, a public information officer for the Tucson sector. "The street value is pretty high."

The agency estimates it to be $1.8 million.

After the packages were loaded near Peña Blanca Lake, which is northwest of the Nogales border crossing, the truck drove off. It was stopped, and 57 packages of drugs were found inside, the Border Patrol said.

Image: Rio Rico drug bust
Agents discovered 57 packages of suspected meth, cocaine and heroin concealed inside the vehicle.US Customs and Border Protection

The names of the two people arrested, who were the driver of the Chevy Silverado and a passenger, were not released by the Border Patrol, but they were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration to face federal charges.

Requests for more information to the DEA's Phoenix office and the U.S. attorney's office for Arizona were not immediately returned Tuesday, and the status of the two people arrested was not clear.

The people who emerged from the brush, loaded packages into the truck and slipped back into the desert were not found, the Border Patrol said.

Hernandez said it is not uncommon for people on foot to travel from Mexico into the U.S. through mountainous or remote terrain, drop off drugs and return to Mexico. They are typically employed by transnational criminal organizations.

That area of the border has historically been considered a marijuana corridor, he said.

"That is declining, and now we're seeing with greater frequency harder narcotics and synthetic narcotics," Hernandez said.

The 18-year-olds are residents of Rio Rico, a community of about 19,000 north of the border at Nogales, the Border Patrol said.

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A 2019 DEA report says most of the methamphetamine available in the United States is produced in Mexico and smuggled over the Southwest border.

Mexico is also considered the primary source of heroin in the U.S., while most cocaine in the country is produced in Colombia.