Attorney General Bonta is “Boots on the Ground” at the Border Addressing the Fentanyl Epidemic

Monday, April 8, 2024
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SAN DIEGO — California Attorney General Rob Bonta, together with local and federal law enforcement partners, received a briefing on fentanyl trafficking and toured the California-Mexico border. Over the last four years, seizures of fentanyl at the California’s border with Mexico have skyrocketed, from 4,790 pounds in 2020 to 27,000 pounds in 2023. During this time frame, between 47 and 61% of all fentanyl seized at the Southwest border was seized at California Ports of Entry. The California and Arizona portions of the border account for 87% of fentanyl intercepted at the U.S. Border. This increase in fentanyl has had devastating consequences. The fentanyl epidemic is driving a recent surge of drug overdose deaths in the United States; in San Diego alone, there has been a 2,375% increase in fentanyl overdose deaths over the past 5 years.  The California Department of Justice’s Fentanyl Enforcement Program, created by the Attorney General, has been working to interrupt networks of drug traffickers. As of March 2024, the California Department of Justice has seized a total of 11,629,902 fentanyl pills, 3,392 pounds of fentanyl powder and have arrested 280 suspects on fentanyl related charges. 

“Today, I want to remind Californians that our work won’t stop until the deaths from illicit fentanyl do,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “We will continue to collaborate with local, state, and federal law enforcement wherever possible. We’ll investigate traffickers, disrupt trafficking networks, and continue to prevent overdose deaths by interdicting illicit fentanyl. Those who bring this poison into the state can expect to be prosecuted and held accountable for the death and devastation they’ve caused. We are extremely thankful to all our law enforcement partners standing on the frontlines of this epidemic.”  

“Fentanyl is everywhere and it is killing people,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “We are relentlessly prosecuting the cartel leaders, chemical suppliers, smugglers, distributors and dealers of this poison. Our message is clear: If you are dealing this death pill in San Diego, you will be dealing with us.”

"The San Diego Imperial Valley HIDTA is honored to host California Attorney General Bonta and his leadership team as they meet with federal, state and local law enforcement partners to address the surge in Fentanyl seizures along the California Southwest Border," said HIDTA Director David King. "The California Department of Justice/Bureau of Investigation is committed to providing personnel and resources to HIDTA task forces specifically designed to investigate and prosecute those transnational criminal organizations responsible for trafficking fentanyl and profiting from the epidemic of overdose deaths in the State of California. The Office of National Drug Control Policy stands ready to provide financial resources to the 24 federal, state and local agencies in the San Diego Imperial Valley HIDTA as they strive to save lives and protect the public from violent crime and the scourge of drug addiction in our communities."

"The epidemic of fentanyl and other illicit synthetic drugs poses a serious threat to public safety," said Sidney K. Aki, Director of Field Operations for the San Diego Field Office. "The alarming increase in fentanyl seizures over the past four years underscores the urgent need for cooperation with our partner agencies to disrupt this deadly flow. By working together, we can stem the tide of fentanyl and protect our communities from these dangerous drugs.”

In 2022, and in response to the fentanyl epidemic, the California Legislature and the Governor approved appropriation for the creation of the California Department of Justice, Division of Law Enforcement, Bureau of Investigation’s (BI) Fentanyl Enforcement Program (FEP). FEP works with local and federal law enforcement partners throughout the state to address the fentanyl crisis and get these dangerous drugs off California’s streets. The program is comprised of BI regional investigative teams placed in San Diego, Los Angeles, Dublin, and Sacramento. A Special Agent in Charge serves as the program manager and each team has a Special Agent Supervisor, five Special Agents, a Staff Services Analyst and a Crime Analyst I. Through collaboration with existing BI Task Forces, the FEP targets major fentanyl-trafficking criminal networks. The program leverages existing BI Task Forces and local and federal law enforcement partnerships to identify, investigate, disrupt, and dismantle these criminal networks. BI has the unique expertise, state-wide perspective, and vertical prosecution model to impact fentanyl-trafficking criminal networks.

Another task force that focuses on the fentanyl epidemic is HSI San Diego FAST. This task force is comprised of state, local and federal partners and was first established in August 2022 focusing on the disruption and dismantlement of criminal organizations that smuggle and distribute fentanyl within San Diego County. HSI’s FAST targets fentanyl smuggling and distribution networks to counter the rising overdose rate and decrease the availability and accessibility of fentanyl.

The most recent fentanyl related enforcement actions can be read about here:

  • February 2024: Announced a joint operation in San Diego County resulted in the felony arrest of a suspect and the seizure of 720,000 fentanyl pills.
  • January 2024: Announced that the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Fentanyl Enforcement Program arrested and filed charges against three drug traffickers alleged to be responsible for bringing 30,000 fentanyl pills across the Mexico and California border.
  • October 2023: Announced the arrest of a suspect in Placer County for providing a lethal dose of fentanyl that killed a Rocklin father in July of 2023.
  • October 2023: Announced the sentencing of Nathaniel Cabacungan for the June 2022 homicide of J. Wolf, a 15-year-old female from Roseville. Cabacungan, a 20-year-old Roseville resident, supplied Wolf with fake M-30 pills that resulted in her fentanyl overdose death.
  • October 2023: Announced the results of a multiagency effort — “Operation Safe Harbor” — targeting a violent criminal street organization in Los Angeles. Members of the organized criminal group were allegedly operating a statewide narcotics and firearm trafficking network throughout California and responsible for a number of violent acts.
  • September 2023: Announced the arrest of two suspects and the seizure of more than 45 pounds of illicit drugs, including methamphetamine and fentanyl, in Fresno County.
  • September 2023: Announced a joint operation in Fresno County resulting in the felony arrest of a suspect and the seizure of more than 150 pounds of narcotics, including 485,000 fentanyl pills disguised as oxycodone and 45 pounds of cocaine.
  • August 2023: Announced the felony arrests of two suspected narcotic traffickers and the seizure of various illicit drugs including fentanyl, as well as illegal handguns, and large amounts of cash in Placer County.


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