CBP’s Operations ‘Plaza Spike’ and ‘Apollo’ Intercept Cartel Drug and Weapons Trafficking Across U.S. Borders

Illegal Firearms

As a result of intensifying efforts by multiple law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced in a series of statements in July that record amounts of illicit fentanyl and other dangerous drugs, as well as hauls of illegal weaponry have been seized.

Through two programs dubbed “Operation Plaza Spike” and “Operation Apollo,” officials say that as of June in FY 2024, over 15,000 pounds of fentanyl have been seized, exceeding the total amounts from the previous eight fiscal years combined. Despite a 17 percent decrease in nationwide drug seizures from May to June, CBP notes that significant quantities of drugs and firearms continue to be intercepted at the border.

In early July, U.S. Border Patrol agents from the El Centro Sector intercepted a cache of weapons, magazines, and ammunition during a traffic stop on Interstate 10 in Indio, California.

U.S. Border Patrol agents from the El Centro Sector intercepted a cache of weapons, magazines, and ammunition during a traffic stop on Interstate 10 in the Chiriaco Summit area of Indio, California. A Border Patrol K-9 team detected the contraband and discovered 28 rifles, one handgun, 30 high-capacity magazines, and 2,210 rounds of ammunition hidden in two duffle bags. The CBP said that agents arrested the driver, a U.S. citizen, and turned over the confiscated items to a local law enforcement task force.

El Centro Sector Chief Patrol Agent Gregory Bovino emphasized the dedication of Border Patrol agents in combating smuggling operations.

“Smugglers are all cut from the same dirty cloth. They’ll do anything for profit, including trafficking children, drugs, or in this case, weapons headed to Mexico,” Bovino said. “Conversely, our agents are forged differently — winners, ready to take it to criminals anywhere, anytime, anyplace, as this excellent arrest indicates.”

Less than a week later, CBP officers disclosed that at the Calexico East Commercial Facility, they intercepted 515.74 pounds of methamphetamine concealed in wooden furniture cabinets. A 29-year-old male driver applying for admission from Mexico with a shipment of wooden furniture was referred to a secondary inspection. Using non-intrusive scanning technology, officers detected irregularities in the furniture, revealing false compartments containing 49 packages of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $928,000. The driver was handed over to Homeland Security Investigations, and the narcotics and truck were seized.

“I am extremely proud of our officers’ relentless efforts to protect our nation’s borders, even during blazing temperatures,” stated Roque Caza, port director for the Area Port of Calexico. “Their tenacity to remain vigilant and prevent dangerous drugs from reaching our communities encapsulates their remarkable dedication and commitment to duty,” he said.

Another CBP media release said that on the following Tuesday, July 11, officers at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry seized 4.62 pounds of fentanyl powder, 7.71 pounds of black tar heroin, 2.46 pounds of brown powder heroin, and 2.11 pounds of cocaine concealed within a vehicle’s muffler.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) estimates that as little as 2.5 milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal. The four-and-a-half pound haul of fentanyl powder alone could kill about 839,000 people – more than the total population of San Francisco, California.

The statement detailed a 28-year-old man driving a 2003 sedan who was stopped for inspection as he applied for admission into the United States from Mexico. A CBP K-9 team detected narcotics, prompting a secondary inspection. CBP officers identified irregularities in the vehicle’s muffler and extracted 10 packages containing the drugs, weighing a total of 16.9 pounds.

“Our CBP officers successfully intercepted a significant narcotics seizure ingeniously concealed within a vehicle’s muffler,” said Rosa E. Hernandez, port director for the Otay Mesa and Tecate ports of entry. “This singular event highlights the innovative, yet desperate measures used by drug trafficking organizations. Our dedicated officers remain vigilant, continuing to safeguard our communities from the dangers of illicit drugs.”

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Christy Kelly is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Christy on Twitter / X. Email tips to [email protected].


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