EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A Phoenix-based police task force has arrested two alleged drug dealers and seized 41.5 pounds of fentanyl pills hidden in a pickup driving around a commercial parking lot.

The Sept. 7 arrest of Jesus Aaron Garcia and Benjamin Andres Contreras Pena in the parking lot of a West Phoenix business was the end result of the investigation of a Mexican supplier trying to “move” his product in Arizona.

Court records show a confidential informant notified the Phoenix Group 16 Dealers task force about a Mexican supplier trying to sell him 130,000 fentanyl pills at a wholesale price of about $290,000. The Drug Enforcement Administration-led task force monitored the transaction as the supplier directed the informant to one of his alleged distributors in the area.

The informant contacted Garcia and was told to go to an address near the corner of West Buckeye Road and South 75th Avenue, federal court records show. Law enforcement immediately set up surveillance in the area. he officers observed two males in a silver Toyota Tacoma driving in circles at the proposed meeting location that evening.

The officers observed the driver of the Tacoma talk on the telephone at the same time their informant was having a conversation with the alleged distributor, according to a federal complaint affidavit filed on Sept. 8. That’s when uniformed law enforcement officers activated police light and sirens and arrested Garcia and Contreras, court records show.

A search of the Tacoma revealed multiple bundles marked “5,000,” “10,000,” and “15,000” containing pills that a field test allegedly revealed to be fentanyl. The drugs weighed a combined 18.84 kilograms, or 41.5 pounds.

Graphic courtesy Drug Enforcement Administration

Garcia and Contreras were charged with possession with intent to distribute a Schedule II controlled substance (fentanyl). There was no immediate word on the identity of the Mexican supplier.

Records show the DEA in 2022 seized 58.4 million fentanyl-laced pills and 13,000 pounds of fentanyl powder nationwide. This year’s haul is up to 55.4 million pills and 9,100 pounds of powder seized.

The Phoenix Group 16 Dealers task force includes federal and local law enforcement officers assigned to investigate large-scale drug trafficking in Arizona. Its members are trained to counter tactics used by organized criminal groups such as using encoded communications, pre-paid “burner” cell phones, counter-surveillance techniques and the use of fictitious or stolen identities.