Fire extinguishers used to smuggle fentanyl in from Mexico, DOJ alleges

Bags of drugs are in front of canisters.
Seventeen people have been charged in an alleged drug smuggling scheme in which fentanyl and other drugs were brought from Mexico to Los Angeles.
(U.S. Department of Justice)

Fentanyl was smuggled into Los Angeles from Mexico inside of fire extinguishers, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which charged 17 people in the scheme.

Ten of the suspects are in custody in the U.S., while the other seven are wanted in Mexico, a statement from the agency said.

The agency alleges that a San Diego-based company, Carin Trucking, operated at least six semitrucks that regularly crossed the border.


Those trucks carried fire extinguishers filled with fentanyl, methamphetamine and heroin, concealed by scrap metal, the DOJ says.

Fentanyl deaths have been on the rise, with the substance becoming Los Angeles County’s deadliest drug in 2023. Fentanyl caused 20% of fatal opioid overdoses nationwide in 2016, but that rate skyrocketed to 92% in 2022.

Illicit imports of the opioid drug responsible for a fatal overdose crisis largely come from Mexico. But U.S. citizens bring most of it through legal ports of entry.

Feb. 12, 2024

After crossing the border, the trucks involved in the smuggling scheme would continue up to Los Angeles, where a courier would take the fire extinguishers for distribution, the Justice Department alleges.

The government’s two-year investigation, called Operation Smoke Jumpers, led to 13 seizures with huge yields: “680,992 fentanyl pills, 3 kilograms of fentanyl powder, 17 kilograms of heroin, and 10,418 pills containing methamphetamine,” the statement said.

On Feb. 8, authorities began making arrests. Six of the 10 suspects were taken into custody in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire.

One suspect, Toniel Baez-Duarte, was already in custody after being arrested in connection with a drug-fueled massacre of six in El Mirage in the unincorporated area of Adelanto.


“These defendants used a sophisticated network to smuggle immense amounts of fentanyl into our country,” U.S. Atty. Martin Estrada said. “We know that every fentanyl pill can kill, but these defendants did not care about the widespread destruction they were causing.”

Charges against the 17 individuals include two narcotics conspiracies, 12 drug possession offenses and a money laundering conspiracy. Possible maximum penalties include life imprisonment.