NUECES COUNTY, Texas — A traffic stop on U.S. Hwy. 77 just south of Robstown on Wednesday morning has turned into a history-making drug bust. Authorities stopped a vehicle that had the largest amount of liquid fentanyl ever seized in the United States.
This was also the first time liquid fentanyl has been found in Nueces County.
"During the search we located a compartment built in the gas tank of this vehicle, and inside the gas tank was a modified tank which had roughly 25 pounds or 3 gallons of liquid fentanyl," explained Mike Tamez with the Nueces County District Attorney's Criminal Interdiction Unit.
A Precinct 3's constable deputy working with Tamez's unit made the drug bust. U.S. Border Patrol was also involved.
How the liquid fentanyl was hidden -- and later found
Tamez said a number of things caused the deputy to believe something was not right. First, the deputy found $6,700 in cash under the vehicle's carpet. Then the deputy discovered a suspicious bolt in the rear floorboard of the vehicle that fed into the vehicle's gas tank.
Tamez said the deputy immediately knew something was wrong because this is how liquid meth is sometimes concealed. But this liquid didn't crystallize when hitting the open air like meth does, and it later tested negative for meth.
One officer suggested it was fentanyl. That test came back positive.
Largest liquid fentanyl drug bust
"When we spoke with our federal partners to help us with this case the one commonality was that they never heard of this much liquid fentanyl ever being hit on a traffic stop on a Texas highway," Tamez said.
Officers called in a HAZMAT unit, and the clean-up took hours. The scene wasn't clear until 7 p.m.
Tamez said this drug bust will make a difference because fentanyl overdoses continue to surge both in Nueces County and nationwide.
"It’s killing people," Tamez said. "It's overdosing and killing them. It's definitely one of the most dangerous drugs and highly addictive drugs on the market today."
Breakdown of amount of fentanyl found
As we mentioned earlier, this is the first time fentanyl has been found in liquid form in Nueces County.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reports that two milligrams of powder fentanyl can be lethal, depending on the person's body size. Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez said one gallon of liquid fentanyl equals 3,785,411 milligrams of the substance. When you do the math, that turns in to more than five million lethal doses of fentanyl taken off the streets.
3NEWS Sr. Digital Content Producer Haley Williams contributed to this story.