Trucker arrested in record-breaking drug seizure at Otay Mesa border crossing

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SAN DIEGO — A trucker from Mexico was arrested last week after trying to smuggle record-breaking amounts of methamphetamine and fentanyl into the U.S., according to federal prosecutors.

The bust happened at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego last Thursday, when border officers found more than 17,500 pounds of meth and 389 pounds of fentanyl inside a tractor-trailer.

Federal prosecutors say Carlos Martin Quintana-Arias, a Mexican citizen, sought to enter the U.S. on Nov. 18 as the driver and sole occupant of a 2009 Kenworth Tractor pulling a 1996 Stoug trailer. Quintana-Arias’ manifest said the trailer contained automotive body parts.

An X-Ray machine detected anomalies inside the trailer, and a drug detection dog alerted to the rear door, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Further inspection revealed a few automotive body parts among 6,266 packages of drugs.

The news release said 6,106 packages, weighing 17,584 pounds, contained a substance that tested positive for methamphetamine. The other 160 packages contained 388 pounds of a substance that field-tested positive for fentanyl, federal investigators said.

The seizures are the largest of either drug in the U.S. for both 2020 and 2021.

“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,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “We commend our partner agencies for their tireless work and dedication to preventing these dangerous and deadly drugs from entering our country.”

Quintana-Arias was arrested on suspicion of importation of a controlled substance, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum of 10 years along with a $10 million fine.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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