In separate San Diego federal courtrooms, one fentanyl smuggler was sentenced Monday to a decade in prison and another pleaded guilty in an unrelated case.
Graciela Poteciano of Chula Vista was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez to 10 years behind bars for trying to sneak more than 26 pounds of the synthetic opioid painkiller into the United States along with heroin and methamphetamine.
U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant, meanwhile, accepted a guilty plea from Tijuana resident Jose Arturo Acevedo, who attempted to carry 5,857 fentanyl pills, 55 pounds of methamphetamine, 24 pounds of cocaine and 12 pounds of heroin across the border.
Though the tablets Acevedo was caught with had markings indicating that they were oxycodone, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration personnel determined that they consisted of fentanyl.
Poteciano, 43, was convicted by a federal jury in July of smuggling about 27 pounds of fentanyl, 10 pounds of methamphetamine and 6 1/2 pounds of heroin into the United States.
According to trial evidence, Potenciano entered San Ysidro Port of Entry on May 24 driving a Chevrolet Avalanche. Customs officers discovered the drugs in a spare tire located in the undercarriage of the pickup truck.
According to his plea agreement, Acevedo, 35, entered the same border station in July in a vehicle containing 24 packages of drugs concealed in a speaker box on the floor of the vehicle, behind the front seats. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 30.
In handing down Poteciano’s punishment, Benitez commented on the severe dangers of fentanyl and noted that the extremely potent drug had been involved in many overdose cases across the nation.
When fentanyl is produced in clandestine laboratories, it can be 100 times more potent than morphine, according to medical authorities. Exposure to even a trace amount of it via inhalation or absorption through the skin can be fatal.
Last year, the DEA released a nationwide public health alert on fentanyl, which is anywhere from 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin. The agency’s investigations have revealed that Mexican drug cartels are producing fentanyl from ingredients that originate in China.
Abuse of the drug represents “an extremely dangerous public-safety threat,” according to U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.
“I continue to be alarmed by the number of fentanyl seizures we are seeing at our borders, which can only mean more tragic deaths if users don’t wake up and take these warnings to heart,” Duffy said.
–City News Service
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