Federal charges in Mexico-US fentanyl smuggling case

U.S. and World
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NEW YORK (AP) — An alleged drug trafficker was accused on Tuesday of flooding the New York City area with large quantities of fentanyl from Mexico at a time when overdoses related to the powerful opioid have skyrocketed.

Francisco Quiroz-Zamora faced drug-trafficking conspiracy charges following an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the office of Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan and other law enforcement agencies.

Quiroz-Zamora, 41, was arrested in a sting operation late last year after he traveled to New York City to collect a payment from an undercover agent posing as a drug dealer, authorities said. An indictment in state court charges him in connection with the seizure of more than 44 pounds of fentanyl last year at a hotel in the Bronx and at an apartment in upper Manhattan used as stash house.

An arraignment for Quiroz-Zamora was scheduled for later Tuesday. The name of his attorney wasn’t immediately available.

Last year, seizures of fentanyl in cases brought by the narcotics prosecutor increased from 35 pounds to 491 pounds. At the same time, fatal overdoses tied to fentanyl reached an all-time high of more than 1,400 in New York City in 2017, officials said.

The drug is far stronger than heroin and cheaper to produce, making the potential profit margin much higher for traffickers who usually mix it with heroin for sale to users who often don’t know what they’re getting, officials said.

According to U.S. authorities, Quiroz-Zamora, who lived San Jose del Cabo in Baja, had the drugs smuggled by cars, trucks and couriers over the border into Arizona and California before the supplies reached the New York City area. Last year, an undercover officer posing as a drug dealer reached Quiroz-Zamora by phone and struck a deal with him to buy the fentanyl for between $45,000 and $50,000 per kilo, authorities said.

In November, Quiroz-Zamora travelled to New York to collect a payment from the undercover officer, authorities said. Agents intercepted him as he arrived by train at Penn Station in Manhattan.

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