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$1.4 million in oxycodone found hidden in woman's car at Otay Mesa border

$1.4 million in oxycodone found hidden in woman's car at Otay Mesa border
This file photo shows OxyContin pills. On Wednesday, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer found 47,340 tablets of oxycodone inside a woman's car at the Otay Mesa border crossing. (Toby Talbot / Associated Press)

A 22-year-old woman was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of trying to smuggle $1.4 million worth of addictive painkillers across the Otay Mesa border crossing.

The 47,340 tablets found in a hidden compartment under the woman's car represent the largest seizure of oxycodone along the U.S.-Mexico border in at least five years, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

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The woman, Adriana Morfin-Paniagua, a U.S. citizen living in Tijuana, was charged with importing a controlled substance.

According to a federal complaint, a Customs and Border Protection officer smelled a silicone-like odor when Morfin-Paniagua drove up to the Otay Mesa Port of Entry around 9 a.m. Wednesday.

The officer used a mirror to look under the 1999 Honda Accord and spotted packages in a makeshift compartment, according to the complaint.

At a secondary inspection area, officers used a car lift and discovered 30 plastic-wrapped packages in the undercarriage compartment, which had been constructed with sheet metal, screws and silicone.

Inside the parcels were yellow, 40 mg tablets, marked on one side as "OP" — the label for a brand name of oxycodone, OxyContin. The tablets later tested positive for properties of oxycodone.

Typically sold for $30 a tablet, the volume of seized opioid painkillers has a street value of $1.4 million, authorities said.

According to the complaint, Morfin-Paniagua admitted to Homeland Security investigators that she knew the hidden packages contained some kind of drug. She told them she was promised $1,000 to $1,500 if she smuggled the narcotics.

If convicted, Morfin-Paniagua faces up to 22 years in prison.

Hernandez writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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