US citizen arrested at California checkpoint after attempting to smuggle $130k in fentanyl pills

 A US citizen was arrested on Wednesday after attempting to smuggle $130,000 worth of fentanyl pills through a California immigration checkpoint, according to US Customs and Border Protection on Thursday.

Border Patrol agents at the El Centro Sector checkpoint in Indio said a ride-share taxi driver with four passengers entered the inspection area — which is on Highway 86 near the Salton Sea — about 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

The vehicle was sent to a secondary inspection area for further investigation, where a K-9 team specializing in detecting concealed humans and narcotics received permission from the taxi driver to search the vehicle.

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The K-9 alerted officers to the trunk of the vehicle, which contained several bags, and then specifically alerted to a backpack and a speaker. A passenger, who was not named and identified only as a US citizen, said both were his.

While searching both items, Border Patrol agents found "multiple wrapped packages consistent with the wrapping commonly used to transport illegal narcotics," the agency said.

A sample taken from one of the wrapped packages tested positive for fentanyl.

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CBP said the package was estimated to contain 9.7 pounds of fentanyl pills, with an estimated street value of $130,000.

The passenger was arrested and turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

El Centro Sector said the seizure is part of Operation Apollo, a joint regional operation with federal, state and local agencies aimed at fighting the threat of fentanyl and other illicit synthetic narcotics.

Over the past few days, Checkpoint said agents have intercepted the following: a fugitive wanted for federal probation violations stemming from cocaine trafficking, a felon with a no-bail warrant from San Bernardino, 9.3 pounds of marijuana, 6.5 pounds of meth and $31,794.

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