SAN DIEGO — A college student from Tijuana was sentenced Monday to more than seven years in prison for playing a key role in a foiled smuggling attempt that led to one of the largest-ever seizures of fentanyl on the Southwest border.
Flavio Diego Rivera Davalos, 20, received the 87-month custody plea through terms of a plea agreement in which he admitted to transporting about 77 pounds of the super-potent opioid painkiller — an amount, according to U.S. authorities, that could have led to 800,000 fatal overdoses.
Davalos was arrested at San Ysidro Port of Entry on Dec. 8, after driving his 2010 Ford Focus into the facility with the stated purpose of visiting an outlet mall just north of the international line, according to prosecutors.
Alerted by a service dog to the presence of possible contraband in the car, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers searched it, finding 31 packages of fentanyl stashed in the firewall, quarter panels, back seat and a speaker box.
The illicit haul would have been worth more than $2 million in street sales, according to federal authorities.
Davalos initially had agreed to transport illegal drug proceeds from Los Angeles to Tijuana, and the traffickers gave him the Focus along with money to register the vehicle in his own name, court documents state.
A day before his arrest, Davalos gave the traffickers access to his car, providing them an opportunity to pack the load of fentanyl inside it, prosecutors alleged.
Rejecting a defense plea for a 30-month sentence, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns noted that Davalos “did not play a minor role in the offense.” Burns said he was further troubled by the fact that the defendant, who has worked as a teacher, had set a bad example for his young students.