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Press Release

Trafficker Admits Smuggling Large Quantities of Deadly Fentanyl, Methamphetamine, and Cocaine, Including More Than 450,000 Fentanyl Pills

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

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


SAN DIEGO – April Spring Kelly admitted in federal court today that she smuggled more than 450,000 fentanyl pills from Mexico into the United States during a nine-month conspiracy from February  to October of 2018. 

According to admissions in her plea agreement, Kelly smuggled the fentanyl pills through ports of entry in San Diego and Nogales, Arizona, for distribution to mid-level distributors in San Diego and Phoenix.

Kelly, a U.S. citizen living in Tijuana, also admitted to smuggling large quantities of fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine in her vehicle as she attempted to cross the international border at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on November 30, 2018.  According to court documents, she admitted attempting to smuggle 36.24 pounds of methamphetamine, 37.83 pounds of cocaine, and 11.99 pounds of powdered fentanyl in her vehicle.  She was arrested that day by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.

Sentencing is scheduled for October 11, 2019 at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino.

“San Diego is the gateway for fentanyl to the rest of the country, and we are working aggressively to close that gate, one smuggler and one distributor at a time,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “With so many lives at stake, we are pursuing more of these cases than ever.”

Brewer praised federal agents from Homeland Security Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, who are on the front lines of this fentanyl surge.  

“Today’s guilty plea is an example of the significant results that can be achieved when law enforcement agencies form a great partnership and work diligently to bring a case to prosecution,” said Juan Munoz, Acting Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Diego.  “HSI will continue to investigate individuals who bring dangerous drugs such as fentanyl into the U.S. and endanger the families in our communities.  We urge everyone to take the time to learn about these deadly drugs and take the steps necessary to protect their families and loved ones.”

“Deadly drugs like fentanyl are devastating families throughout San Diego,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers.  “April Kelly’s guilty plea today is a victory for all San Diegans.  Kelly is only 38 years old and she will pay for her actions of pure greed by spending a very long time – potentially life - in prison.  This should serve as a warning to anyone who traffics drugs:  DEA will investigate and arrest you and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

DEFENDANT                                   Case Number 18cr5463JLS

April Spring Kelly                              Age:    38        San Diego, California

SUMMARY OF CHARGES                                   Case Number

Counts 1, 2 and 3  –  Importation of Methamphetamine, Cocaine, and Fentanyl, in violation of 21 U.S.C. 841 and 846.

Maximum Penalty: Life in prison (10-year minimum mandatory); $10 million fine

Count 4 – Conspiracy to Distribute Fentanyl, in violation of 21 U.S.C. 841 and 846

Maximum Penalty: Life in prison (10-year minimum mandatory); $10,000,000 fine; supervised release; $100 special assessment).


Homeland Security Investigations

Drug Enforcement Administration

Customs and Border Protection


Updated July 15, 2019

Press Release Number: CAS19-0715-Kelly