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Justice News

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

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ten-Year Sentence for Fentanyl Smuggler; In Another Courtroom, Guilty Plea to Smuggling Approximately 6,000 pills of Fentanyl

Assistant U. S. Attorneys Sherri Hobson (619) 546-6986, Brandon Kimura (619) 546-9614, Kevin Mokhari (619) 546-8402 and Lara Stingley (619) 546-8403

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – November 7, 2016

SAN DIEGO –   One fentanyl smuggler was sentenced in federal court today to 10 years in prison while another pleaded guilty in an unrelated case involving a deadly drug that has become an extremely dangerous public safety threat.

In the first case, Graciela Poteciano, of Chula Vista, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez to 120 months in prison for attempting to smuggle more than 26 pounds of fentanyl, methamphetamine and heroin.

Also today, U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant accepted the guilty plea of another defendant, Jose Arturo Acevedo, who attempted to smuggle 5,857 pills containing fentanyl, 55 pounds of methamphetamine, 24 pounds of cocaine, and 12 pounds of heroin. The blue pills had markings and the physical dimension of oxycodone, but the Drug Enforcement Administration lab determined that they contained fentanyl. 

Poteciano, 43, of Tijuana, Mexico, was convicted by a federal jury in July 2016 of three counts of smuggling into the United States approximately 26.59 pounds of fentanyl, 10 pounds of methamphetamine, and 6.57 pounds of heroin, following her jury trial in July 2016. Poteciano was charged with importation of controlled substances into the United States. in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 952 and 960.

According to evidence presented at trial, Potenciano entered the San Ysidro Port of Entry on May 24, 2016, as the driver of a Chevy Avalanche. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered the drugs in a spare tire located in the under carriage.  The seized methamphetamine had a retail value of up to 80,000; the seized heroin had a retail value of up to $78,840;  the seized fentanyl had a retail value of up to $510,000.

In sentencing Poteciano today, Judge Benitez remarked about the dangers of the deadly fentanyl and how fentanyl was connected to multiple overdoses in the nation.  When fentanyl, a Schedule II synthetic opioid painkiller, is produced in clandestine laboratories, it can be 100 times more potent than morphine. Exposure to even a trace amount of fentanyl through inhalation or absorption through the skin can be fatal.

According to his plea agreement, Acevedo entered the San Ysidro Port of Entry on July 19, 2016 in his vehicle, which contained 24 packages of drugs concealed in a speaker box lying on the floor of the vehicle behind the front seats near the passenger door. He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 30, 2016 before Judge Bashant.

“Fentanyl remains an extremely dangerous public safety threat,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “I continue to be alarmed by the number of fentanyl seizures we are seeing at our borders, which can only mean more tragic deaths if users don’t wake up and take these warnings to heart.”

Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration released a nationwide public health alert on Fentanyl, a Schedule II synthetic opioid painkiller. Fentanyl is anywhere from 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin. DEA investigations reveal that the Mexican drug cartels, including Sinaloa, are producing fentanyl from precursors sourced from China.


Graciela Potenciano               Age 43            Chula Vista, California           Criminal Case:  16CR1285

Jose Arturo Acevedo             Age 35            Tijuana, Mexico                      Criminal Case:  16CR1877


Importation of Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. 952 and 960)

Maximum penalty:  20 years’ imprisonment and $500,000 fine


Customs and Border Protection

Homeland Security Investigations


Human Smuggling
Press Release Number: 
Updated November 7, 2016