Mexican prosecutors said Thursday they found an illicit facility with a pill press used to manufacture fentanyl pills in the border town of San Luis Rio Colorado, across from Yuma, Arizona.
The town is better known for its myriad pharmacies, dentist and doctors' office catering to American visitors.
But federal prosecutors said they detained a man there who had 11 pounds of fentanyl pills, 110 pounds of white powder, and 44 pounds of blue powder and an industrial pill press.
Mexican cartels import close fentanyl precursors from China and then press the drug into counterfeit pills made to look like Xanax, Adderall or Oxycodone, a or mix into other drugs. That has led to tens of thousands ofin the United States, because people often do not realize they are taking fentanyl.
Agents at the U.S.-Mexico border are using new technology to scan trucks for fentanyl as fentanyl-laced pills seized by law enforcement surged nearly 50-fold between 2018 and 2021, CBS News' Lilia Luciano reported last month.
DEA zeroes in on China as fentanyl deaths soar
The leading cause of death for Americans between 18 and 45 is fentanyl overdoses. With a majority of the chemicals in fentanyl produced in China, the Drug Enforcement Administration is to crack down on the supply chain networks producing the illegal drug.
"We would like China to do more," DEA administrator Anne Milgram told CBS News. "For example, we need to be able to track every shipment of chemicals that's coming out of those Chinese chemical companies and coming to Mexico. Right now, we can't do that."
The DEA seized 2,100 pounds of precursor chemicals from January 2021 to March 2022, Milgram said. It's enough to make one billion potentially lethal doses, but Milgram knows her agency is not getting all of it.
"This is what we worry about," she said. "That's part of why we are so focused right now on stopping the chemicals coming out of the Chinese chemical companies. If we can go as far upstream as possible to China, we have a much better chance of stopping it ever being made in Mexico."
Milgram said Chinese chemical companies are currently the largest producer of precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl.
"There's a relationship between these Chinese chemical companies and the criminal cartels in Mexico," she said.
Milgram said that once the drugs make it to the border, "it is too late."
"I can say with 100% assurance that the criminal drug cartels in Mexico will stop at nothing to get fentanyl into the United States," she said.
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