FIRST ON FOX: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is hailing law enforcement efforts and promising to “hunt down” fentanyl traffickers after the successful seizure of a massive 15,000 pills disguised as OxyContin by Florida authorities on Thursday.
“Fentanyl flowing over our southern border is a direct result of the Biden Border Crisis and in Florida, we will not allow it to take the lives of innocent people,” DeSantis said in a statement to Fox News Digital.
“In Florida, we will hunt down anyone who brings fentanyl into our communities and puts lives at risk,” DeSantis, who is also running for the 2024 Republican White House nomination, said. “I am thankful to the officers who continue to put the safety of their communities first and apprehend these criminals.”
His comments came after the Florida Highway Patrol Criminal Interdiction Unit arrested a suspect on Thursday and seized the haul of drugs in Osceola County.
According to the state, troopers stopped a white Mercedes driving recklessly and pursued it going over 100 miles an hour, hitting other vehicles and driving on the wrong side of the highway. The driver, Jonathan Nicola, crashed and was taken into custody for traffic offenses.
During the subsequent search of the vehicle, officers found a loaded handgun, drug paraphernalia and 15,000 pills in a vacuum-sealed bag. The vehicle was determined to have been stolen. Nicola has since been charged with drug trafficking and possession, as well as vehicle and weapons charges.
Illicit fentanyl is typically manufactured in Mexico using Chinese precursors and then moved across the U.S. land border. While the majority of seizures take place at ports of entry, officials have warned about fentanyl being smuggled in between ports and past overwhelmed Border Patrol agents who are dealing with a historic migrant crisis.
“Despite the unabated flow of Fentanyl flowing into our nation through the open southern border, State Troopers wake up every day willingly putting themselves in high-risk situations like this, so that they can put evil people behind bars,” Florida Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Dave Kerner said in a statement.
“Despite the advantages the drug cartels reap from the open border, the Florida Highway Patrol will never back down from the mission Governor DeSantis has assigned us; keep our communities safe, and fight back against the cartel driven devastation,” he said.
Of the over 107,000 overdose deaths in 2021, 75% involved an opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC.) The drug can be fatal in tiny doses due to it being 50 times stronger than heroin, and is often either mixed with, or disguised as, other drugs, so users are unaware they are ingesting fentanyl.
The Biden administration has put the increase in seizures of the drug down to better screening and technology at ports of entry, and has said it needs more funding. But Republicans have said it is due to an increase in attempts as a result of the border crisis, meaning that more of the drug could be getting through.
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