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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hundreds of Counterfeit Oxycodone Tablets Seized at Port of Entry Contained Ultra-Deadly Fentanyl

Assistant U. S. Attorney Orlando Gutierrez (619) 546-6958    

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – April 14, 2016

SAN DIEGO – A suspected smuggler’s recent attempt to bring hundreds of counterfeit oxycodone pills through the Otay Mesa Port of Entry has raised serious concerns among law enforcement officials here because the pills turned out to be ultra-deadly fentanyl.

In Sacramento, California, there have been dozens of overdoses and at least 11 deaths in which individuals believed they were consuming the prescription painkiller Norco, which contains hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Instead these counterfeit tablets contained fentanyl. The Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services has urged individuals to refrain from taking prescription-type pills that are not prescribed and obtained from one’s own doctor.

The seizure is believed to be the first time that federal officials along the California-Mexico border have intercepted counterfeit oxycodone tablets containing fentanyl as they were being smuggled from Mexico into the United States.

In federal court in San Diego today, defendant Sergio Linyuntang Mendoza Bohon of Tijuana, Mexico, was arraigned on a charge that he unlawfully imported a controlled substance. According to a charging document, Bohon attempted to smuggle 1,183 tablets of fentanyl that were labeled as oxycodone, and 5.4 grams of powdered fentanyl.

According to court records, on February 10, 2016, defendant Mendoza Bohon entered the United States at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry as a pedestrian.  During the primary inspection, a Customs and Border Patrol Officer observed an unnatural looking bulge on the defendant and he was referred to secondary inspection, where Customs and Border Protection officers found the tablets labeled as oxycodone concealed in his underwear.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agents responded to the Port of Entry. During his post-arrest statement, defendant Bohon admitted that he knew that the tablets were “oxy” [oxycodone] and that he was attempting to smuggle the oxycodone into the United States. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration Laboratory confirmed that the pills contained fentanyl and not oxycodone.

“Unsuspecting individuals who illegally purchase oxycodone could potentially die from the ingestion of what turns out to be fentanyl tablets,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “We are very concerned that these counterfeit pills could cause serious harm to users. Even miniscule amounts of fentanyl can have devastating consequences for those who abuse it or literally even touch it.”

Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration released a nationwide public health alert on Fentanyl, a Schedule II synthetic opioid painkiller. Fentanyl and Fentanyl analogues produced in clandestine laboratories can be 100 times more potent than morphine. Exposure to even a trace amount of Fentanyl through inhalation or absorption through the skin.

Fentanyl is anywhere from 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin. The drug and its analogues are being produced to a large extent in China.  DEA investigations reveal that the Mexican drug cartels, including Sinaloa, are purchasing fentanyl directly from China and producing fentanyl from precursors sourced from China. 

In some parts of the country, heroin is being spiked with fentanyl or being replaced by fentanyl.   There are a number of reasons why, but it mainly comes down to economics.  Fentanyl generates greater profits than heroin. 

“DEA will continue to investigate the manufacturers, smugglers and distributors of fraudulent prescription pills,” said DEA San Diego Special Agent in Charge William R. Sherman. “These criminals are putting fentanyl into fake pills and passing them off as legitimate prescription medications.  Fentanyl is extremely powerful and can very easily lead to overdose deaths. This just goes to show the lengths to which criminals will go to make an easy buck.”

“This investigation involves the first interdiction of counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl that were smuggled from Mexico into the U.S. at the local ports of entry,” said Dave Shaw, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego. “While this time we’ve successfully prevented a potentially deadly drug from reaching the streets, we face an uphill battle stemming from the rapidly growing demand for pharmaceutical painkillers on the black market. HSI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners, both here and abroad, to identify and dismantle transnational criminal networks seeking to profit from the production and distribution of deadly counterfeit drugs.”

This case is being investigated by the San Diego Pharmaceutical Task Force, a group formed in 2012. Members include agents from DEA, HSI, the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Investigation, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, and the United States Attorney’s Office.

Bohon’s next court appearance is on May 2, 2016, before the U.S. District Judge Marilyn L. Huff for a motion hearing.

DEFENDANT                                              Case Number 16CR0453

Sergio Linyuntang Medonza Bohon               Age 19                        Tijuana, Mexico

CHARGE

Importation of Controlled Substance, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 952 and 960.  Maximum Penalties:  20 years in custody; 3 years of supervised release; $250,000 fine; $100 Special Assessment.

INVESTIGATING AGENCIES

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

San Diego Pharmaceutical Task Force

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations

Drug Enforcement Administration

California Department of Justice, Bureau of Investigation

San Diego Sheriff’s Department.

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment, information, or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 
CAS16-0414-Bohon
Updated April 14, 2016