Carlos Martin Quintana-Arias, a Mexican citizen and truck driver, was arrested at the U.S. border crossing near San Diego in what authorities are calling a record-breaking drug seizure, the southern California U.S. Attorney’s office announced Tuesday.
Police said they confiscated 17,584 pounds of methamphetamine and 388.93 pounds of fentanyl from the back of Quintana-Arias’ commercial trailer on Thursday, reportedly the single largest seizure of either drug anywhere in the country for 2021 and 2020.
Quintana-Arias was arraigned the following day and a detention hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, prosecutors said.
Carlos Martin Quintana-Arias Arrested in Massive Drug Seizure
According to the statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office, Quintana-Arias applied for entry at the U.S. border in a tractor trailer he claimed contained auto parts. But authorities said an X-ray scan of the truck and a preliminary search by a drug detection dog revealed “anomalies.”
Border agents did find some auto parts in the back of the truck, among 6,266 packages of illicit drugs, prosecutors claimed. Subsequent field tests of the packages most of them contained methamphetamine. About 100 tested positive for fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, authorities said.
Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said the drug bust prevented untold damage to American communities.
“This is a staggering seizure that demonstrates the extent of our current fight against mass production of methamphetamine and fentanyl. But for the vigilance of our law enforcement partners, this record-breaking deluge of drugs would have caused incredible damage in our communities.” Grossman wrote in a statement Friday. “We commend our partner agencies for their tireless work and dedication to preventing these dangerous and deadly drugs from entering our country.”
Chad Plantz, a Homeland Security special agent in San Diego, speculated that the drug seizure would save lives, citing the continuing rise of fentanyl overdoses continue to rise across the United States.
“Countless lives will be saved because of this historic seizure of methamphetamine and fentanyl, but make no mistake: drug cartels strive to exploit our borders to further their criminal enterprises every day,” Plantz said.
“The HSI Border Enforcement Security Task Force and the San Diego Imperial Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force, in collaboration with CBP, remain vigilant in the mission to disrupt and dismantle every level of the cartels,” he added.
Customs and Border Patrol officials cited their agents skill in perceiving “anomalies,” which they said led directly to the historic bust.
“Our vigilance is critical to our mission and we will continue to make our homeland and communities safer by making sure these dangerous drugs are intercepted,” said San Diego CBP Field Office Director Pete Flores.
Carlos Martin Quintana-Arias Facing Charges
Quintana-Arias is facing a hefty prison sentence after border officials seized his illicit cargo.
The Mexican citizen was charged with two counts of importation of a controlled substance, a felony that carries a maximum punishment of life behind bars, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. If convicted, statute requires he serve a minimum 10-year sentence, and could potentially be on the hook for $10 million in fines, prosecutors wrote.
Officials did not release a booking photo, age, or place or origin for Quintana-Arias, other than to specify that he is a citizen of Mexico. It’s not clear if he is a known associate of central American drug cartels, or if he had been convicted of any drug-related crime in his native country previously.
The Los Angeles Times reported Quintana-Arias was arraigned Thursday, and he remains in custody without bail.