An Atlanta-based fentanyl broker came to Gulfport to check out a garage to make sure it was a secure location for a drug delivery, a narcotics agent said.
The garage wasn’t a garage, but a location controlled by DEA agents and set up to resemble a towing yard and mechanic shop, the agent wrote in an affidavit.
But the two kilos of fentanyl bound for the garage a few days later were real, and were intercepted in a traffic stop on Interstate 10, wrote a DEA Task Force agent working with the Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area project.
Alejandro Menera Martinez, 35, and Casimior Cardona Chacon, 23, have been held for federal marshals since their arrests on Sunday.
Never miss a local story.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used to treat severe pain and used as an anesthesia. It’s 50 times stronger than heroin, and even a small amount can be deadly, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It’s also said to be up to 100 times more potent than morphine.
A deadly dose is about 2 mg, the equivalent of two grains of salt, the DEA website says.
Sunday’s arrests reportedly followed an investigation that began in September involving a fentanyl organization believed to be operating in Atlanta.
According to the affidavit, a broker identified as Martinez met with a buyer (a confidential source) in Gulfport on Sept. 27. Martinez checked in at the Courtyard Marriott and told the buyer he could deliver 3 kilos, for $50,000 per kilo, in a compartment vehicle, also known as a trap car. Martinez wanted a secure garage waiting so the compartment hiding the drugs could be dismantled.
Unbeknown to Martinez, undercover DEA agents followed his 2006 Volkswagen Jetta to what appeared to be a secure garage. Martinez was pleased with the garage, and told the buyer he would return to Gulfport in a few days, the agent said. Martinez brought Chacon with him when he returned.
Martinez met with the buyer near his hotel on Sunday, and Chacon drove the car as he and Martinez headed to the garage — with undercover DEA agents following them, the document said.
A Gulfport police criminal interdiction officer stopped the eastbound Jetta on I-10 at mile-marker 40. The officer reportedly saw unusual marks near the back seats and found a hidden, built-in compartment, the agent said.
Agents detained the men and took them and the Jetta to a city maintenance facility in Gulfport. Officers dismantled the trap door and seized the fentanyl.
Martinez and Chacon had an initial appearance in U.S. District Court on Monday. The case was ordered sent to a grand jury during a preliminary hearing Thursday, court records show.
The seizure is the second fentanyl bust in Gulfport in one month.
DEA agents and a Gulfport police tactical team intercepted a four-kilo delivery brought by couriers for the Sinaloa Cartel on Sept. 2, court papers show. Officers arrested the two couriers in a sting operation at the Island View Casino Resort.