40 Pounds of Fentanyl and Other Drugs Worth $4.2 Million Seized
June 29, 2023
California Attorney General Rob Bonta, alongside Merced County District Attorney Nicole Silveira, the California Highway Patrol (CHP), and the Merced County Sheriff's Office, announced the seizure of 40 pounds of fentanyl and 104 pounds of methamphetamine, as well as the arrest of seven suspects, in two separate cases in the County of Merced.
"Throughout the nation, we continue to address the impacts of the opioid crisis, and have in recent years seen a marked increase in fentanyl use and associated deaths," said Attorney General Bonta. "This crisis is a multifaceted public health and safety issue - and addressing this crisis requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. Whether seizing of illicit fentanyl through our ongoing enforcement efforts or by bringing California billions of dollars through our lawsuits and investigative efforts to hold the opioid industry accountable, the California Department of Justice is all-in when it comes to protecting California families from the dangers of fentanyl. I thank our law enforcement agencies here in Merced, along with our partners statewide, for their work as we stand together to combat this deadly epidemic. Our work to address the fentanyl crisis is saving lives and making communities safer - but there is more to be done. We won't rest until we get fentanyl off our streets and out of Californian communities, including here in the Central Valley."
The seizures in this case come as a result of two separate CHP traffic enforcement stops that were turned over for further investigation to the Merced Area Gang and Narcotic Enforcement Team (MAGNET), a California Department of Justice, Bureau of Investigation led task force. On April 25, 2023, a K-9 officer from the CHP's Central Division conducted an enforcement stop on a vehicle in Merced County. During the contact, a canine was deployed and gave a positive alert to the odor of narcotics and approximately 104 pounds of methamphetamine and 25 pounds of fentanyl were located inside the vehicle. Investigators with MAGNET responded to the scene and assumed lead of the investigation. The driver and three passengers within the vehicle were taken into custody without incident and booked into the Merced County Jail on the charges of possession of methamphetamine for sale, transportation of methamphetamine across noncontiguous counties, possession of fentanyl for sale, and transportation of fentanyl across noncontiguous counties.
On April 2, a K-9 officer from the CHP's Central Division conducted an enforcement stop on a vehicle in Merced County. During the contact, the CHP officer conducted a consent search of the vehicle and 15 pounds of fentanyl was located in the rear passenger floorboard. As investigators with MAGNET were en route to assume lead of the investigation, the driver had fled on foot into the foothills. The Merced County Sheriff's Office air unit assisted CHP and MAGNET with locating the driver in the foothills where he was taken into custody. The driver and two passengers were arrested and booked into the Merced County Jail on charges of possession of fentanyl for sale, and transportation of fentanyl across noncontiguous counties.
The Merced Area Gang and Narcotic Enforcement Team (MAGNET) is a California Department of Justice, Bureau of Investigation led multiagency task force, federally funded through the national High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program. It is comprised of members from the California Department of Justice, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation-Special Services Unit, Merced County Sheriff's Office, Merced Police Department, Merced County Probation Department, Merced County District Attorney's Office, Los Banos Police Department, Livingston Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
DOJ's allied task forces are working actively with law enforcement partners throughout California to detect, deter, disrupt, and dismantle criminal fentanyl operations and prevent fentanyl from reaching neighborhoods and communities. Attorney General Bonta announced the seizure of over four million fentanyl pills and almost 900 pounds of fentanyl powder, and over 200 arrests through DOJ's Bureau of Investigation's work with allied task forces throughout California since April 2021. Attorney General Bonta also announced in 2022-2023 budget year, DOJ secured $7.9 million for the creation of the program within DOJ under coordination of its Bureau of Investigation to expand this important work, with an allocation of $6.7 million in ongoing funding.
Since April 2022, DOJ fentanyl seizures totaled:
In addition to this enforcement work, Attorney General Bonta continues an all-in approach by advancing effective public policy and working with national partners to hold the opioid industry accountable for their role in creating the opioid crisis and its impacts. To date, DOJ has secured over $32 billion through nationwide settlements, including $2 billion for California, bringing needed funding back to communities for treatment and prevention strategies.