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Press Release

20-Year-Old Tijuana College Student Sentenced To 87 Months in Custody for Smuggling Fentanyl

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California


SAN DIEGO –   Today, District Judge Larry A. Burns sentenced Flavio Diego Rivera Davalos, 20, to 87 months in custody based on his guilty plea admitting that he smuggled approximately 77 pounds of fentanyl into the United States. Davalos, who was 19 at the time of the offense, was arrested at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on December 8, 2017 following one of the largest seizures of the deadly opioid along the Southwest border.  According to expert opinions included in court records, 77 pounds of fentanyl would yield 800,000 potentially fatal dosage units and a market value of more than $2 million.   

According to court documents, Davalos entered the United States from Mexico through the San Ysidro, California Port of Entry. Davalos, a visa holder, was the driver, sole occupant and registered owner of the 2010 Ford Focus bearing Baja California, Mexico license plates.  In pre-primary inspection, a Customs and Border Protection Officer and an assigned Narcotics and Human Detection Dog were conducting roving operations when the canine alerted to the odor of narcotics in the vehicle.  The CBP officer questioned Davalos regarding his purpose of travel to the United States and he responded that he was going to “Las Americas” Premium Outlets shopping mall. At the secondary inspection area, CBP officers detected anomalies in the rear seat and rear quarter panels of the vehicle. According to the complaint, officers found 31 packages of fentanyl throughout the vehicle, including in the driver’s side quarter panel, the passenger’s side quarter panel, the driver’s side rear seat, the passenger’s side rear seat, the speaker box and the firewall under the hood.

According to court records, Davalos initially agreed to transport drug proceeds from Los Angeles to Tijuana and the traffickers gave a vehicle to Davalos, who used his new vehicle for work and college.  Traffickers also gave money to Davalos to place the vehicle in his own name and directed Davalos to “burn” the plates through the Port of Entry to minimize suspicion.  Davalos was also directed to provide receipts of his crossings to the traffickers to confirm that he had multiple crossings.  Davalos gave his vehicle to the traffickers the day before he crossed, thereby facilitating the placement of drugs in his vehicle.  When he entered the Port the next day as part of a three-vehicle caravan headed to Los Angeles, Davalos suspected that all three vehicles were loaded with drugs.    

Rejecting the defense plea for a 30-month sentence, District Court Judge Burns commented that Davalos “did not play a ‘minor’ role in the offense” but rather played a significant part in importing an illegal drug, particularly given the volume of the deadly substance and the specific facts of this case.  Judge Burns additionally found it troubling that defendant, a college student in Tijuana, was also a teacher who failed to set a good example for his young students.

“Our district’s work enforcing drug laws has never been more important than it is right now.  Cartels are on a mission to use California ports of entry to funnel highly addictive and fatal opioids throughout the United States, exacerbating the deadliest drug crisis in American history,” stated U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman. “Here vigilant law enforcement agents took 800,000 fatal fentanyl doses off the streets, effectively preventing defendant’s deadly fentanyl stash from resulting in thousands of devastating overdoses.”                                        

DEFENDANT                                   Case Number: 18-cr-01120-LAB

Flavio Diego Rivera Davalos             Age 20              Tijuana, Mexico


Importation of Controlled Substance: 10 year minimum mandatory to life; fine of $1 million dollars; at least 3 years of supervised release; $100 Special Assessment


Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)


Assistant U. S. Attorney Sherri Walker Hobson (619) 961-0287

Updated August 6, 2018

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: CAS18-0806-Davalos