A $200 Million Load of Fentanyl Was Just Seized in El Chapo’s Hometown

Fentanyl is a boom drug for the Mexican cartels, which have embraced its production and trafficking in response to the demand for opioids in the U.S.
A "record" seizure of fentanyl in a warehouse in Culiacán, Sinaloa in July 2022. Photo from the Mexican army. 

The Mexican army seized a “record” quantity of fentanyl, most likely produced by the Sinaloa Cartel, in the city of Culiacán this week. 

More than half a ton of the synthetic opioid—542 kg—was seized in a warehouse, which according to the Mexican authorities has a value of around $200 million, was seized in a warehouse. 


“This is the largest seizure in history of this lethal drug,” said Assistant Public Safety Secretary Ricardo Mejía during a press conference on June 7. 

Authorities also found 555 kg of methamphetamine, 31 kg of cocaine, 7 kg of heroin, and over 71,000 kg of chemical precursors. Ten people were arrested in the bust, according to a Mexican army press release.

Fentanyl is the most recent boom drug for the Mexican cartels, which have embraced its production and trafficking in response to the demand for opioids in the U.S. It’s a powerful synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin, according to US authorities, and an important source of new profits

Authorities said the warehouse belonged to “members of organized crime” but did not share further details about any specific group. 

A source in Culiacán connected to a faction of the Sinaloa Cartel who spoke with VICE World News anonymously said the drug belonged to “los menores,” referring to the sons of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. 


“(Fentanyl) is supporting almost all the financials inside the organization right now,” the source said. 

The massive seizure comes amidst an aggressive U.S. campaign against fentanyl trafficking and use after overdoses inside the U.S. surpassed 100,000 this year, according to figures from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). 

The vast majority of the fentanyl produced in Mexico is exported to the U.S. There are low levels of consumption of fentanyl in Mexico, and use is largely focused in border cities such as Tijuana, where the use of the opioid is growing, as are opioid overdoses.

Although Sinaloa has been one of the main producers of fentanyl production for at least seven years, only three overdoses have been registered in the state from 2015 to the first half of 2022, according to local authorities. 

Last year fentanyl seizures at the United States-Mexico border more than doubled compared to 2020. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statistics showed that 10.6 pounds of fentanyl was seized on the southern U.S. border during the 2021 fiscal year—more than double the amount for the same period in 2020. 

In November 2021 U.S. authorities made the biggest seizure of the opioid when 388.93 pounds of fentanyl were found inside a commercial trailer attempting entry at the Otay Mesa, California, Commercial Port of Entry.