8 million fentanyl pills seized in Phoenix area during nationwide operation

Officials are calling it a “historic” bust.
The DEA says the seized pills were part of the One Pill Can Kill initiative.
The DEA says the seized pills were part of the One Pill Can Kill initiative.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 7:55 AM MST|Updated: Sep. 28, 2022 at 1:09 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The U.S. Department of Drug Enforcement Administration says its Phoenix division seized over 8 million fake fentanyl pills during a nationwide operation that spanned just over three months.

Across the U.S., more than 10 million fentanyl pills and 980 pounds of fentanyl powder were seized between May 23 and Sept. 8. That’s enough to kill 36 million people.

Most of those seizures were conducted in Arizona. There were 390 investigations conducted nationwide. Authorities say that of those cases, about nine percent were linked to the largest Mexican cartels – the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel – that the feds say are responsible for most of the fentanyl that crosses into the U.S. Social media also played a big part in the bust, with 33 percent of cases linked to apps like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger. In addition, 338 weapons were seized, including pistols, shotguns, rifles, and hand grenades.

“On the frontline as we race to save lives, DEA Arizona continues to seize historic amounts of deadly fentanyl,” said Cheri Oz, DEA Special Agent in Charge. “It is terrifying that the drug cartels are mimicking candy to make fentanyl appear harmless. We need your help spreading the word about the dangers of fentanyl. It’s a matter of life and death.”

The announcement comes on the heels of Phoenix police arresting two men after one million pills were found at a house and car in Avondale. In that case, authorities called it the single largest fentanyl seizure in the city’s history. Last month, two sisters were arrested after police uncovered more than 850,000 pills in duffle bags. Recently, 1.5 million pills were seized while smugglers attempted to bring in fentanyl and other drugs at the Nogales port.

Another Seizure Announced The Same Day

Troopers conducted the stop at a checkpoint on the SR-85 near Gila Bend.
Troopers conducted the stop at a checkpoint on the SR-85 near Gila Bend.(De)

Hours following the DEA announcement, the Arizona Department of Public Safety announced that it had seized 26 more pounds of pills during a stop at an immigration checkpoint near Gila Bend. Troopers made the discovery after a canine tipped them of drugs in the vehicle. About two pounds of an unknown drug, and a brown powdery substance were also seized.

Rainbow Fentanyl: A Growing Crisis

Alarming new rainbow fentanyl trend

Referred to by teens and young adults as “skittles,” authorities are also seeing a disturbing trend with brightly-colored fentanyl, dubbed “rainbow fentanyl” as more and more of these enticing-looking tablets appear around the country.

Just days earlier, Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell addressed the problem, saying dealers are particularly trying to attract kids and teens. And Arizona’s Family sister station in Tucson reported that police in that city are now asking parents to be on the lookout for the drug.

“People are getting hooked much quicker onto these pills and using them differently. People are injecting it, ingesting it,” Mitchell said. “I’ve seen them with my own eyes in cases where we’ve made arrests. We’re seeing not just a few pills, we’re seeing people come into our country with hundreds of thousands of pills.”