The fentanyl was smuggled into Los Angeles from Mexico inside fire extinguishers, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which charged 17 people in the scheme.

Ten of the suspects are detained in the United States, while the other seven are wanted in Mexico, according to the agency’s statement.

The charges allege that a San Diego-based trucking company, Carin Trucking, operated at least six trucks that regularly crossed the border.

Those trucks carried fire extinguishers filled with fentanyl, methamphetamine and heroin, hidden among scrap metal, the Justice Department alleges.

Fentanyl deaths have been on the rise, with fentanyl becoming the deadliest drug in Los Angeles County in 2023. Fentanyl caused only 20% of fatal opioid overdoses nationwide in 2016 until the rate it shot up to 92% in 2022.

After crossing the border, the trucks involved in the smuggling scheme would continue to Los Angeles, where a courier would take the fire extinguishers for distribution, the Justice Department alleges.

The government’s two-year investigation, called ‘Operation Smokejumpers,’ led to 13 seizures with huge yields: “680,992 fentanyl pills, 3 kilograms of powdered fentanyl, 17 kilograms of heroin and 10,418 pills containing methamphetamine,” according to the notice.

On February 8, authorities began making arrests. Six of the 10 suspects were arrested in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire.

One suspect, Toniel Báez-Duarte, was already in custody after being arrested in connection with a drug-fueled massacre of six people at El Mirage in the unincorporated area of ​​Adelanto.

“These defendants used a sophisticated network to smuggle immense quantities of fentanyl into our country,” the US attorney said. said Martin Estrada. “We know that every pill of fentanyl can kill, but these defendants didn’t care about the widespread destruction they were causing.”

The charges against the 17 individuals include two narcotics conspiracies, 12 drug possession offenses and one money laundering conspiracy. Possible maximum penalties include life in prison.

By Sam