Nebraska state troopers last month seized 118 pounds of fentanyl in what authorities said is one of the largest busts of the dangerous opioid ever in the United States.
Nebraska State Patrol Col. John Bolduc announced Thursday that testing confirmed that all 118 pounds of the drugs confiscated during an April 26 traffic stop was fentanyl. The drug, which authorities said was responsible for the 2016 death of iconic musician Prince, is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
"Without question, that traffic stop saved thousands of lives," Bolduc said on the State Patrol's Facebook page.
Bolduc praised the work of the troopers during Thursday's news conference, at which Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts also congratulated them on the bust, along with another one this month in which troopers seized more than 1,800 pounds of marijuana.
"I'm especially proud of our troopers and our staff, because these drugs, as we know, are contributing to the opioid crisis in our country, which is killing Americans every single day," Bolduc said Thursday. "This work is saving lives. We can't even extrapolate out the number of lives that this particular bust has impacted."
According to the DEA, as little as 2 milligrams of fentanyl is lethal in most people. At that rate, the 118 pounds of the drug seized by troopers was enough to kill more than 26 million people.
Troopers conducted the traffic stop last month after spotting the driver of an eastbound 2013 Freightliner tractor-trailer driving on the shoulder of Interstate 80 near Kearney, State Patrol officials said in a news release. The trooper who initiated the stop became suspicious that something criminal might be going on.
The Washington Post reported that court documents indicated the driver, Felipe Genao-Minaya, was "shaking visibly in the truck" and that Genao-Minaya, 46, and his passenger, Nelson Nunez, 52, both of New Jersey, could not identify the previous load they carried in the truck, which was seemingly empty at the time of the traffic stop.
Troopers searched the truck and found a hidden compartment that held 42 foil-wrapped packages of white powder that they initially suspected to be fentanyl and cocaine, the news release said.
Credit: Nebraska State Patrol
Credit: Nebraska State Patrol
"Because of the dangerous nature of the substance, troopers do not perform field testing on suspected fentanyl," State Patrol officials said in the release.
The drugs were sent to the Nebraska State Patrol Crime Lab, where technicians identified the entirety of the load as fentanyl, authorities said.
Bolduc said the drugs would be worth more than $20 million on the street.
Both Genao-Minaya and Nunez were arrested for possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver and failure to have a drug tax stamp, the news release said. The Post reported that both men are being held in lieu of $100,000 bail in the Buffalo County Jail.