Man charged in record-breaking drug seizure at U.S. border

An aerial view of cargo trucks lined up on a road
Cargo trucks line up to cross into the United States at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry near the border in Tijuana on April 2, 2019.
(Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images)

A trucker is facing federal drug charges after he was caught with record-breaking amounts of methamphetamine and fentanyl inside his tractor-trailer while trying to cross last week into the United States at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Carlos Martin Quintana-Arias, a Mexican resident, was arrested Thursday after 17,584 pounds of meth and 389 pounds of fentanyl were seized.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said both amounts would be the largest seizures of either drug in the U.S. in both 2020 or 2021. In August, federal authorities made what they then called likely the largest meth bust in U.S. history, finding more than 5,528 pounds of the drug inside a big rig that crossed from Mexico at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.

The meth, and an accompanying 127 pounds of fentanyl powder that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered Aug. 5, had an estimated street value of more than $12.9 million, according to officials.


U.S. authorities have not yet said what the estimated street value is of the 6,266 packages of meth and fentanyl discovered Thursday. Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said it “would have caused incredible damage in our communities.”

“This is a staggering seizure that demonstrates the extent of our current fight against mass production of methamphetamine and fentanyl,” Grossman said in a statement.

Quintana-Arias’ manifest indicated his trailer contained auto body parts, but “anomalies” were detected in the trailer by both an X-ray machine and a drug-sniffing dog, according to the complaint.

Officials found the packages of drugs inside the trailer, which also contained “a few” automotive body parts, the complaint said.

Quintana-Arias was arraigned in San Diego federal court on Friday on two counts of importation of a controlled substance.

City News Service contributed to this report.