SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — More deadly fentanyl is being seized along the California-Mexico border than at any of the nation’s 300-plus ports of entry, making this federal district “an epicenter for fentanyl trafficking into the United States.”

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Diego, during the first nine months of the fiscal year 2022 (October through June), U.S. Customs and Border Protection law enforcement agencies in San Diego and Imperial counties seized 5,091 pounds of fentanyl, amounting to about 60 percent of the 8,425 pounds of fentanyl seized around the entire country.

U.S. prosecutors say Mexican cartels are increasingly manufacturing fentanyl for distribution and sale in the United States with precursors being imported from China and other countries and then pressed into pills, powder or mixed into other drugs at massive, industrial-scale labs.

“A decade ago, we didn’t even know about fentanyl, and now it’s a national crisis,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “The amount of fentanyl we are seizing at the border is staggering. The number of fentanyl seizures and fentanyl-related deaths in our district are unprecedented.”

According to CBP, seizures of fentanyl in San Diego are up by approximately 323 percent in the last three years, from just 1,599 pounds in FY 2019 to 6,767 in FY 2021.

With three months to go in FY 2022, seizures in San Diego in FY 2022 are on pace to meet or exceed 2021 levels.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in the San Diego Field Office have the arduous task of sifting through 150,000 northbound travelers every day to find those conducting illegal activity, including narcotics smuggling,” said Anne Maricich, acting Director of Field Operations for the San Diego CBP Field Office. “Drug trafficking organizations will use anyone they can to help them with their dangerous and illegal activities, including regular border crossers as well as teens in the hopes that they won’t arouse suspicion.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office also said there has been an approximately 1,600 percent increase in the number of people charged with fentanyl-related crimes over the last five years, including cases involving dealers who distribute fentanyl resulting in someone’s death.

Those charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

“We continue to work with our law enforcement partners to pursue justice for the victims who die as a result of fentanyl trafficking and to prosecute the people responsible for this crisis – from the Mexican drug cartel leadership, to the couriers, to the street dealers who distribute the fatal doses,” Grossman said.