Over a ton of fentanyl found by local postal inspectors in mail over three years

Millions of deadly illegal pills have been brought to Seattle on flights packed in checked luggage, and when you and your luggage are screened at the airport, the TSA isn’t looking for drugs -- they’re focused on weapons and explosives. But postal inspectors as it turns out, are looking for drugs in the mail every day, and in two years, they confiscated more weight in illegal drugs than the weight of seven metro transit buses.

While we were asking U.S. Attorney Nick Brown about finding and prosecuting drug couriers bringing fentanyl on flights to Seattle, he revealed something startling.

“We see lots of fentanyl pills in the mail all across our district,” he said.

As part of our larger investigation into fentanyl in our region, KIRO 7 learned the amount of fentanyl, meth and cocaine being delivered though the mail is staggering. Between 2020 and 2022, United States postal inspectors found and removed 1.5 tons of fentanyl, 6.5 tons of meth, and 6.5 tons of cocaine.

So, how is it stopped? Quietly working behind the scenes is an entire “prohibited mail narcotics team” in Seattle with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

As the inspector in charge of contraband interdiction and investigations, Daniel Adame says they fight the illegal mailing of narcotics by figuring out big patterns of shipments tied to international drug cartels.

“Share intelligence, go after the high profile targets, and figure out how we dismantle drug trafficking organizations,” he described. “Because at the end of the day, that’s what we want to do -- dismantle drug trafficking organizations, go after the suppliers of these deadly poisons.”

In particular, our search of drug seizure data from the U.S. Postal Service spanning the entire state revealed a breathtaking amount of drugs seized in the 98003 zip code between 2020 and 2022, which serves the area of Federal Way.

That included 69 packages containing 110 pounds of illegal drugs, as well as five pounds of fentanyl.

If that sounds like a lot, consider this: Nationwide between 2020 and 2022, postal inspectors intercepted more than 150,000 packages containing more than 317,000 pounds of drugs. That’s 150 tons of illegal drugs taken out of the mail stream.

Adame can’t reveal exactly how inspectors find out drugs are being shipped, but he says drug dealers make it extremely difficult to pick out legitimate packages from those containing illegal narcotics and even cash.

“There are many ways that people use to try to disguise things that they’re putting in the mail,” he noted. “Contraband of all different types.”

“But we have ways that we use investigative techniques to really hone in on what it is that we’re looking at,” Adame continued.” We know where a package was introduced into the mainstream, we know where it’s destined.”

Western Washington U.S. Attorney Nick Brown told us how they track drugs in the mail is a secret, but he wants everyone to know -- the mail is being surveilled.