Border agents seize 20,000 fentanyl pills in record bust

SAN DIEGO — A Tijuana man was arrested at San Ysidro Port of Entry Wednesday after federal agents allegedly found more than 20,000 fentanyl pills hidden in his car — a cache believed to be the largest amount of the deadly narcotic in pill form ever seized along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Fernando Jesus Peraza, 38, was taken into custody at about 2:30 a.m., according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego.

Agents allegedly found the drug in four packages concealed in the passenger-side rear quarter panel of Peraza’s car. The pills were designed to resemble M30s, or oxycodone tablets, officials said.

At Peraza’s initial appearance in the case Wednesday afternoon, prosecutors requested that the suspect, a U.S. citizen who works in San Diego County, remain detained due to flight risk.

“This is the biggest fentanyl-pill seizure we’ve seen along the Southwest Border, and it’s likely a national record,” San Diego-area U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said. “I’m relieved that these pills are off the streets because of the vigilant work of law enforcement.”

If convicted of the drug-smuggling charge against him, Peraza will face a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $1 million fine, according to prosecutors.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jill Burkhardt scheduled a detention hearing for Friday morning and a preliminary hearing for Aug. 21.