Wake County sheriff’s narcotics investigators, working on information developed in an ongoing drug investigation, arrested a man arriving at Raleigh-Durham International Airport with what they determined was 1.7 pounds of the powerful narcotic drug fentanyl in packets he had swallowed, officials said.
Sheriff Donnie Harrison said Umberto Altamirano, 29, of Escondido, Calif., was coming from Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday and was taken to WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh before being booked on two counts of trafficking in opioids.
Fentanyl, according to the federal government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
The hospital visit, Harrison said, was because of the danger of ingesting fentanyl if any of the packets broke open. He said Altamirano admitted he had swallowed 65 packets.
Investigators estimated the fentanyl had a street value of about $115,000.
A variation of fentanyl has become a major concern for authorities because it is sometimes mixed with heroin and has been blamed for fatal overdoses, including two in one week in Cary in November.
The arrest came a day after RDU police had arrested a Washington state man on charges of having 9.5 pounds of marijuana with the intent to sell and distribute it and less than a month after they arrested two Raleigh women on marijuana trafficking charges for having what police said was 78 pounds of that drug.
Altamirano was arrested at Terminal 2, which is where the other arrests took place.
The quantity of fentanyl that police said Altamirano had made the trafficking charge a Class felony, for which conviction carries a sentence of between 225 months and 282 months in prison.
RDU police have declined to discuss details of their marijuana arrests, including whether the people arrested were air travelers arriving at or departing from RDU or if they were there for other reasons.
They also have not disclosed where they found the drugs involved in the charges.
Officials have said that they are part of an ongoing multiagency investigation.
Altamirano was arrested about noon Wednesday.
He was held on $2 million bail at the Wake County detention Center pending a court appearance.