Fentanyl: Authorities arrest suspects in Huntington Beach, Hemet
Five pounds of fentanyl and methamphetamine were seized and two people suspected of shipping fentanyl out of the country were arrested Tuesday by the Huntington Beach Police Department.
The seizure occurred when after an officer on patrol stopped a vehicle after seeing the driver and passenger exit it and litter, police said.
Police said the driver and passenger admitted having narcotics in their possession. The driver also told officers he was on probation and consented to a search of the vehicle, police said.
Officers located five pounds of fentanyl and methamphetamine in the car, and the driver and passenger were arrested for allegedly possessing narcotics for sale, police said.
Upon investigating, officers learned that the suspects were allegedly shipping fentanyl out of the country, and additional charges are pending, police said.
In Hemet, a 37-year-old man accused of distributing fentanyl out of his apartment, sending packets of the substance via U.S. mail, was in federal custody Monday.
Ignacio Alcala was arrested last week following an investigation involving the Riverside County Gang Impact Team and U.S. Postal Service.
Alcala was federally charged with distribution of fentanyl for sale, to which he pleaded not guilty during an arraignment at U.S. District Court in downtown Riverside on Friday.
The defendant was booked into a federal detention center in San Bernardino, where he was being held without bail pending a bond hearing on Tuesday.
According to a Gang Impact Team statement, Alcala was identified as the alleged source of fentanyl being sent via mail last month by USPS investigators.
Working in concert, Gang Impact Team personnel and USPS agents obtained sufficient evidence to obtain and serve a search warrant at the defendant’s apartment in the 3800 block of West Devonshire Avenue on Dec. 13, authorities said.
“A … search of the apartment resulted in the seizure of 18.5 kilograms of suspected fentanyl, a half-pound of suspected methamphetamine, a fully automatic ‘ghost gun’ pistol, and a second firearm that was previously reported as stolen,” according to the Gang Impact Team.
The amount of fentanyl seized, valued at more than $3 million, would have been enough to kill 9 million people, according to the agency.
It was unclear exactly how long Alcala allegedly had been distributing the controlled substance and the number of recipients.
According to sheriff’s officials, there have been 415 fentanyl-related deaths countywide to date this year. In 2021, there were just over 400 — a 200-fold increase from 2016, when there were two documented poisonings.
Statistics published in May by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed there were roughly 108,000 fatal drug overdoses in 2021, and fentanyl poisoning accounted for over 80,000 of them.
The synthetic opioid is manufactured in overseas labs, including in China, and according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it is smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by cartels. Fentanyl is 80-100 times more potent than morphine and can be mixed into any number of street narcotics and prescription drugs, without a user knowing what he or she is consuming. Ingestion of only two milligrams can be fatal.
On Oct. 20, the county initiated a public awareness campaign, “The Faces of Fentanyl,” emphasizing the perils of using it. The campaign web portal, FacesOfFentanyl.net, offers resources, including substance abuse counseling options, that are available to all residents.
The Gang Impact Team is comprised of District Attorney’s Office investigators, sheriff’s deputies, U.S. Marshals, U.S. Department of Homeland Security agents and law enforcement personnel from multiple municipal agencies throughout the county.