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SAN DIEGO — A Tijuana resident pleaded guilty Thursday in San Diego federal court to importing tens of thousands of fentanyl pills into the United States, a crime that could send him to prison for life.
Fernando Jesus Peraza, 38, was arrested at San Ysidro Port of Entry on Aug. 8, after customs officers found four packages of drugs concealed in a passenger-side rear quarter panel of his vehicle.
At the time, Peraza, a U.S. citizen who lived in Baja California, worked for a trash-collection service in the United States.
As part of his plea in the case, Peraza admitted to smuggling roughly 20,000 fentanyl pills. He also conceded that he was aware that quantities of the powerful and often deadly narcotic, or some other controlled substance, were hidden in his vehicle.
The fentanyl pills confiscated from the defendant at the border were designed to resemble oxycodone tablets, according to prosecutors.
“Counterfeit pills are especially dangerous because users often don’t know they are ingesting fentanyl,” San Diego-area U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said. “With overdoses taking a life every eight minutes, federal law enforcement agencies are prioritizing prosecution of every individual who smuggles and distributes this deadly substance.”
Peraza faces a sentence of 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine at his sentencing, scheduled for Feb. 1.