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Press Release

Man Sentenced to More than 16 Years for Importing 80 Pounds of Counterfeit Pills Containing Fentanyl

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

SAN DIEGO – Moises Moreno of Moreno Valley, California, was sentenced in federal court today to 200 months in prison for importing more than 36 kilograms of fentanyl from Mexico into the United States.

After a two-day jury trial in October 2022, a jury found that Moreno knowingly imported more than 80 pounds of counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl from Mexico into the United States. During the trial, the prosecution presented evidence that Moreno attempted to smuggle the pills into the United States inside a sophisticated compartment in the roof of his pickup truck. The compartment was created by welding sheet metal underneath the truck’s roof to create a false ceiling where the pills were hidden.

Prosecutors also presented evidence from Moreno’s cell phone and calls Moreno made to unidentified associates after his arrest. During his calls from jail, Moreno bragged about how he “played dumb” after his arrest and “acted like he thought they found weed in his car.” Moreno further boasted to another associate about the amount of drugs he was caught smuggling and sang that he “got keys [a slang term for kilograms] coming from overseas,” a line from a popular hip hop song discussing drug trafficking.

The jury also heard the story Moreno told investigators at the time of his arrest: that he spent the weekend preceding before being caught at the border with a female friend in Mexico. Moreno told investigators that this friend must have set him up to import drugs in the vehicle without his knowledge. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury rejected Moreno’s story and returned a guilty verdict.

“This sentence sends a clear message to any would-be drug courier that you will receive a significant sentence in this district for your role in importing dangerous narcotics like fentanyl,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman.

Grossman thanked the prosecution team and Homeland Security Investigations for their hard work on this case.

“HSI will continue to direct its full range of investigative authorities toward those who smuggle deadly drugs across the border and into our communities,” said Chad Plantz, special agent in charge of HSI San Diego. “This significant sentence demonstrates the U.S. government’s resolve with holding all those who traffic in drugs accountable for their actions.” 

DEFENDANT                                                           Case Number 22-CR1375-BAS                               

Moises Moreno                       Age: 38                       Phoenix, AZ; Moreno Valley, CA

SUMMARY OF CHARGES                                                                                  

Importation of Fentanyl – Title 21, United States Code, Sections 851 and 952/960

Mandatory Minimum: Fifteen years in prison

Maximum penalties: Life in prison and $10 million fine



Homeland Security Investigations

U.S. Customs and Border Protection


Assistant U. S. Attorneys Robert J. Miller (619) 546-8403 and Michael A. Deshong (619) 546-9290 

Updated March 21, 2023

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: CAS23-0320-Moreno