SAN DIEGO (CN) — A Tijuana teenager was charged Monday with smuggling 77.8 lbs. of fentanyl into the United States: enough doses to kill 17 million people — half the state of California.
Flavio Diego Rivera Davalos, 19, was arraigned Monday on charges of smuggling the drug through the border crossing at San Ysidro in a 2010 Ford Focus he drove and owned, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Fentanyl is an extremely powerful drug introduced in the 1990s for breakthrough pain for cancer and other diseases. It is far more potent than heroin. Two milligrams (1/500th of a gram) may be a lethal dose. It has been cited as a contributor to the epidemic of fatal overdoses in the United States, which surpassed 52,000 in 2016, of which 33,000 were attributed to prescription drugs and illegal street drugs, including heroin and fentanyl.
U.S. deaths by drug overdose, in other words, now surpass deaths in auto accidents.
A police dog smelled the drug, and border inspectors found 31 packages of it distributed throughout the car, the U.S. attorney said.
Rivera’s detention hearing is set for Thursday, with a preliminary hearing on Dec. 21.
If convicted of importing a controlled substance, he faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison.