Drug task force director discusses fentanyl seizure

JACKSON, Tenn. — A traffic stop on Interstate 40 led to the discovery of 22 pounds of fentanyl.

Thursday morning on Interstate 40 near the Shelby-Fayette County line, agents were working traffic on the interstate, looking for suspicious activity when an agent observed a vehicle with fake Texas tags.

This led to the agents pursuing the vehicle.

“One of my agents observed a vehicle with a fake Texas tag that was displayed on the back of it. When it passed by my agent, he did a very abrupt lane change cutting off an eighteen wheeler, forcing the eighteen wheeler to slam on his brakes, nearly causing an accident. The agent made a traffic stop on the vehicle,” said Johnie Carter, the Director of the West Tennessee Violent Crime and Drug Task Force.

During the traffic stop, agents developed reasonable suspicion that the occupants of the vehicle were engaged in further criminal activity and obtained a consent to search the vehicle.

The search disclosed 22 pounds of fentanyl concealed within a couch cushion in the back seat being used as a pillow by one of the suspects.

“What we have done is did a preliminary test on the drugs, and it has come back positive for fentanyl. Those drugs are being packaged and taken to a DEA lab for further testing. Also, we are working in conjunction with the DEA on this case,” Carter said.

The three occupants of the vehicle that were arrested are identified as Ervin Ortega-Zalaya, Jose Zelaya, and Jonathan Zelaya of Lexington, Kentucky.

The three individuals are under investigation and are being questioned to make sure they are who they say they are.

The suspects are currently in custody at the Fayette County Jail, and they are awaiting bond.

“We are still investigating the individuals as well. There are some discrepancies as to whether or not they are who they say they are. So, currently, they are being held and we are investigating, looking a little further into those guys as well,” Carter said.

Fentanyl is a very dangerous drug. If this fentanyl were to be pressed into the popular, yet deadly, fentanyl pills, it could potentially make 22,000,000 one milligram tablets.

If still on the streets, the 22 pounds of fentanyl would have been capable of killing over nine million people.

“That’s how these people are overdosing and dying, and I just highly encourage everyone to stay away from fentanyl, period, but to please definitely stay away from the pills,” Carter said.

Agents say this is the biggest fentanyl bust in West Tennessee.

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