Former cop illegally in US is charged with trafficking enough fentanyl to kill more than 10M people

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A former Mexico police officer living illegally in the United States has been charged with trafficking enough fentanyl to kill more than 10 million people, the Justice Department said Friday.

Assmir Contreras-Martinez, 30, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Texas, accused of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, a DOJ statement said. The synthetic opioid is often added to heroin to increase its potency.

"Fentanyl is devastating communities across the country," said Nealy Cox, the U.S. attorney for the Northen District of Texas. "We cannot tolerate the trafficking of this deadly drug through North Texas — especially by those who are charged with protecting our communities, foreign or domestic."

In May, Contreras-Martinez was pulled over by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper in Amarillo, who discovered 33 kilograms of white powder in his Ford Explorer.

Testing later revealed the substance to be fentanyl. The quantity was likely enough to kill more than 10 million people, according to experts with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Almost 32,000 people in the U.S. overdosed on synthetic opioids like fentanyl last year, according to recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Fentanyl is the No. 1 threat causing our opioid epidemic in the United States," said Clyde E. Shelley Jr., DEA special agent in charge of the Dallas field division. "This seizure alone has potentially saved millions of lives."

Contreras-Martinez told authorities he was paid $6,000 to haul the load from California to Florida. It was his second such trip. He admitted to illegally crossing into the U.S. from Mexico seven months earlier, and had worked as a municipal police officer in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico.

He faces as much as 30 years to life in prison and possible deportation after serving his sentence.

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