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22 pounds of fentanyl found during I-40 traffic stop, officials say

WHBQ Memphis logo WHBQ Memphis 10/20/2022 FOX13 Memphis News Staff

Over $200M worth of fentanyl was found during a traffic stop on I-40 on Thursday, October 20, according to the West Tennessee Drug Task Force.

Agents said they pulled over a 2011 Nissan Maxima on I-40 near the Shelby County and Fayette County line for displaying a false Texas temporary tag and failure to exercise due care.

Those agents soon grew suspicious, however, and got permission to search the vehicle, the Drug Task Force said.

That’s when they found 22 pounds of the deadly drug fentanyl concealed in a couch cushion in the back seat.

Agents said one of the men in the car was using the drug-filled cushion as a pillow when they pulled the car over.

Ervin Ortega-Zalaya, 26, Jose Zelaya, 31, and Jonathan Zelaya, 23, were all arrested and taken to Fayette County Jail, Drug Task Force agents said.

Drug Task Force Director Johnie Carter said the deadly powder could have made 22,000,000 tablets.

“If this fentanyl were to be pressed into the popular yet deadly fentanyl pills, it could potentially make 22,000,000 1mg tablets. The street value of these drugs is nearly $ 1 million in its powder form but if pressed into fentanyl pills, they could sell for as much as $220 million,” Carter said.

In a Facebook post, the Drug Task Force called the seizure the largest fentanyl bust in Tennessee state history.

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