Merced Co. drug bust nets enough fentanyl to kill 9 million Californians

A major drug seizure brought State Attorney General Rob Bonta to the Central Valley on Wednesday.

Local and state law enforcement officials busted seven suspects for transporting dozens of pounds of fentanyl and methamphetamine in Merced County. 

California Attorney General Rob Bonta joined Merced County District Attorney Nicole Silveira, Merced County Sheriff Vernon Warnke and the California Highway Patrol in Merced to announce the arrests Wednesday. 


The big picture: Seven suspects were arrested in two separate cases on April 25 and April 27 in Merced County. 

  • In total, law enforcement seized 40 pounds of fentanyl and 104 pounds of methamphetamine. 
  • Both seizures came as a result of CFP traffic enforcement stops that were further investigated by the Merced Area Gang and Narcotic Enforcement Team. 

Driving the news: On the April 25 incident, the CHP found 104 pounds of methamphetamine and 25 pounds of fentanyl during a traffic stop and arrested the driver and three passengers. 

  • On April 27, the CHP found 15 pounds of fentanyl and arrested three suspects for transporting 58,000 pills that were laced with the drug. 
  • Law enforcement officials estimate the street value for the methamphetamine to be around $1.1 million and the fentanyl-laced pills to be worth around $3 million. 

What we’re watching: The four defendants arrested on April 25 could face a maximum penalty of 26 years in local jail and are all ineligible for probation because of the amount of methamphetamine that they had in their possession. 

  • The three defendants arrested on April 27 could face anything from probation up to nine years in local jail. One of those defendants is currently on probation for the same crime that he was just arrested for. 

What they’re saying: “We all know that one pill can kill, so we are talking about the potential to kill 58,000 people that was traveling here in Merced County,” Silveria said. 

  • Bonta thanked the law enforcement agencies in Merced County and the CHP for their work and addressed the ongoing fentanyl crisis that is going on throughout the state. 
  • “Fentanyl is different than other drugs that we have interacted with and interdicted and provided enforcement for,” Bonta said. “It’s cheap, it’s very very potent, and it’s lethal. That’s why drug traffickers – like the suspects we arrested in these cases – are lacing fentanyl into other drugs, pressing it into pills designed to look like prescription drugs.”
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