Government officials arrested a man in Southern California Wednesday with allegedly enough fentanyl to kill 12 million people. The 60-year-old suspect was arrested and charged by California officials in Fullerton with one felony count of selling and transporting a controlled substance and several other felony counts of possession of sale with intent to sell.
According to news reports, California Highway Patrol officers found around four kilos of fentanyl in Alfonso Gomez-Santana’s vehicle during a traffic stop. Officials then searched the suspect’s house to discover 20 more kilos of fentanyl, several thousand dollars of fentanyl pills, and 122 grams of methamphetamine. While Gomez-Santana pleaded not guilty to the charges during an arraignment Friday, if he is convicted, he would only serve a maximum sentence of 80 months in the Orange County Jail.
Some officials argue that the sentence of 80 months is lackluster, given the national fentanyl epidemic that has resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 Americans since 2021. Both Orange County and Riverside County District Attorney’s Todd Spitzer and Mike Hestrin suggested harsher penalties for people involved in producing and selling fentanyl to combat the rising national epidemic.
In 2021, Spitzer and Hestrin announced new laws targeting fentanyl dealers and called for them to face second-degree murder charges for drug sales resulting in death. In a statement regarding the fentanyl epidemic, Spitzer stated that if states like California do not strengthen penalties for drug dealers, American families will wake up to see their children die from massive doses of this substance disguised as recreational drugs.
For the past few years, local law enforcement in states like California, Arizona, Texas, and other border states in the U.S. have warned Americans of the rapid growth in the number of deaths related to deadly drugs like fentanyl. According to recent statistics, from 2019 to 2021, fentanyl overdose deaths more than tripled among teenagers and surged fivefold among Black teenagers. Officials warn that two milligrams of such synthetic opioids can be enough to kill an individual, making it cheaper and more potent than other drugs like morphine or heroin.
Much of the fentanyl that many Americans are consuming comes from illegal drug traders crossing the U.S. Southern border, prompting outrage from American citizens against the Biden administration for its inability to stop the influx of narcotics. In Congress, lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have blamed the Biden administration and the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, for removing the former Trump administration’s policies that tightened the U.S. border and cracked down on drug trafficking.
Instead of waiting for federal action, states like Texas and Arizona have taken it upon themselves to use local law enforcement and coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to manage this issue. Governors, mayors, and local district attorneys have exhausted the resources at their disposal while calling on the President to do more.