I-40 traffic stop yields 22 pounds of fentanyl

SHELBY CO., Tenn. (WMC) – Agents with the West Tennessee Drug Task Force (WTDTF) seized 22 pounds of fentanyl during a traffic stop on I-40 Thursday morning.

Criminal Apprehension agents stopped a 2011 Nissan Maxima on Interstate 40 near the Shelby/Fayette County line for displaying a false Texas Temporary Plate and failure to exercise caution.

During the arrest, the agents developed reasonable suspicion that the occupants of the vehicle were involved in further criminal activity and obtained consent to search the vehicle.

A search revealed 22 kilograms of suspected fentanyl hidden in a couch cushion in the back seat that one of the suspects was using as a pillow.

Three Texas men, Erwin Ortega-Zalaya, 26, Jose Zelaya, 31, and Jonathan Zelaya, 23, of Lexington, Kentucky, were arrested and are currently in custody at the Fayette County Jail awaiting arraignment.

Drug Task Force Director Johnny Carter said, “If this fentanyl was pressed into the popular but deadly drug fentanyl, it would amount to 22,000,000 1 mg tablets. The actual value of these drugs in powder form is about $1 million, but if they were pressed into fentanyl pills, they could sell up to $220 million.”

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