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Feds: Shipment headed to Houston had enough fentanyl to kill hundreds of thousands of people

"This had the potential to overdose or kill 1.425 million people. That’s a lot of poison to be shipped to a residence in southeast Houston," a UCB official said.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Memphis, Tennessee are credited with a huge seizure of fentanyl that was headed to Houston. 

According to the CBP, the 2.85 kilos of fentanyl hidden in wooden boxes was enough to potentially kill hundreds of thousands of people.

“This might seem like a small seizure from a little handicraft gift box,” said Acting Area Port Director Benjamin Canfield in Memphis. “But if we look at those DEA numbers, this had the potential to overdose or kill 1.425 million people. That’s a lot of poison to be shipped to a residence in southeast Houston."

Note: The video above originally aired in June

The fentanyl had been shipped from Michoacan, Mexico and was discovered by customs agents at a Memphis port hub. They found the white powdery substance inside boxes labeled "wood crafts art." Lab tests confirmed it was fentanyl. 

Cheap, easy to hide and dangerous

The synthetic opioid is similar to morphine but about 100 times more potent, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

It's used legally to treat severe pain, but the DEA says drug traffickers like it because it's cheap -- about $4,000 a kilo -- and they can mix it with other drugs to increase the potency.

"Because of its potency and low cost, drug dealers have been mixing fentanyl with other drugs including heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine, increasing the likelihood of a fatal interaction," according to DEA.gov. “Drug trafficking organizations typically distribute Fentanyl by the kilogram. One kilogram of Fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people.” 

The DEA says the drugs are often sold as powders and nasal sprays, and increasingly pressed into pills made to look like legitimate prescription opioids.

Border busts spike dramatically

The number of fentanyl busts in Texas has skyrocketed this year, according to the CBP and Texas Department of Public Safety

In May, CBP agents in the Rio Grande Valley reported a 300% year-to-year increase in fentanyl busts along the Texas border.

The DPS sent us data for the last three years. In the first four months of 2020, DPS seized 10.6 pounds of fentanyl. Through April of 2021, Troopers confiscated 94.5 pounds, a nearly 794-percent increase year to year.

And Texas isn't alone.

Last month, CBP agents in California said they found 2.8 tons of methamphetamine and fentanyl inside plastic household materials with a street value of nearly $13 million.

“This amount of fentanyl and methamphetamine is enough to ruin countless lives and fund transnational criminal organizations,” said Pete Flores, CBP Director of Field Operations in San Diego.

WATCH: Alarming increase in street drugs laced with fentanyl

Tougher Texas law 

Texas is cracking down on illegal manufacturers and dealers.

In its first special session, the Texas Legislature passed a bi-partisan bill that increases prison time for anyone who makes or sells illegal fentanyl.

"Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous drugs on the street," Gov. Greg Abbott said when he signed the bill that became law on Sept. 1.

Abbott often cites the fentanyl crisis as one of the reasons he supports a border wall in Texas.