Drug Enforcement Administration


Apolonio Ruiz, Acting , Special Agent in Charge

January 23, 2020

Contact: Erica C. Curry

Phone Number: (602) 664-5609

Nearly 170,000 deadly fentanyl pills seized by DEA Task Force, Phoenix PD and Arizona DPS

Photo image of 165,000 fentanyl pills packaged for resale.
Photo image of 165,000 fentanyl pills packaged for resale.
165,000 fentanyl pills packaged for resale, seized by DEA Task Force

PHOENIX – During an investigation into the drug trafficking activities of 24-year old Marcelino Ontiveros Quintero, DEA Task Force agents and detectives seized approximately 169,150 lethal fentanyl pills from Quintero and his associate, one of the largest fentanyl pill seizures in the state.  

The DEA Task Force, led by a Phoenix Police Department sergeant and comprised of Phoenix PD detectives along with DEA agents, developed investigative intelligence regarding Quintero and his drug trafficking activities earlier this month and initiated an investigation into the organization. On Jan. 22, during a surveillance operation of Ontiveros, agents and detectives requested assistance from the Arizona Department of Public Safety to facilitate a traffic stop of a vehicle. A search of the vehicle led to the discovery of approximately 165,000 of the blue “M-30” fentanyl pills. Ontiveros was identified as a passenger in the vehicle, which was driven by Norma Ibarra Justo.  Ibarra was also found to be in possession of fentanyl pills, which she attempted to discard during her arrest.  

Working with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, investigators further obtained and executed four state search warrants at locations in Phoenix and Peoria. An additional 4,000 fentanyl pills were located and seized.  Both suspects were booked into Maricopa County Jail. Charges will be submitted to MCAO for review and possible prosecution. 

Intelligence compiled by the DEA in Arizona first highlighted fentanyl pill seizures in 2016, exposing a new trend in illicit fentanyl products. Previously, fentanyl was added to heroin to exponentially increase the potency of the opiate-based drug for the addict population. However, Mexican cartels began to manufacture the fentanyl into a pill form, with fentanyl as the primary opioid substance, marketing the pills as “Mexican oxy” to those seeking opiate-based pills on the street. In FY 2019, DEA and law enforcement agencies statewide are estimated to have seized over 1.4 million of the fentanyl pills. 

The DEA in Arizona is warning the community that the consumption of any pill not prescribed by a licensed medical professional or dispensed by a licensed pharmacist may have deadly consequences, as street fentanyl pills are nearly indiscernible from the legitimate oxycodone tablet. The DEA is encouraging anyone with information concerning the trafficking of fentanyl and other drugs to contact DEA or any law enforcement entity in Arizona. Information can be provided in person or by telephone to any DEA office, or anonymously on DEA’s website www.dea.gov/submit-tip.   

A charge is merely an accusation and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. 

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