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March 23, 2022Nogales, AZ, United StatesNarcotics

Arizona woman sentenced to 57 months for conspiracy to smuggle fentanyl, heroin into the US following ICE HSI probe

TUCSON, Ariz. — A southern Arizona woman was sentenced on Tuesday to nearly 5 years in prison for her role in smuggling fentanyl and heroin into the U.S. following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Nogales assisted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“Those who continue to engage in drug smuggling with no regard for our nation’s laws will be brought to justice,” said Scott Brown, special agent in charge for HSI Phoenix. “HSI will continue to work closely with our partner agencies to combat the serious public safety threat drugs pose to our communities.”

Michelle Krystal Mendez, 36, of Arizona, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jennifer G. Zipps who also handed down three years of supervised release after completing her prison sentence. Mendez previously pleaded guilty to importing fentanyl into the United States from Mexico.

On Nov. 21, 2020, Mendez was returning to the United States from Mexico through the Nogales, Arizona port of entry when a CBP canine alerted to her vehicle. Officers then conducted a search and found nearly five pounds of fentanyl and two pounds of heroin carefully hidden inside the battery compartment under the hood of Mendez’s car.

The United States Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Phoenix, handled the prosecution.

HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move.

HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HIS’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Learn more about how HSI Phoenix investigates attempted narcotics smuggling @HSIPhoenix.

Updated: 03/24/2022