A New Mexico mother was charged with a federal drug crime after allegedly using her two children — ages 8 and 10 — to traffic a deadly dose of fentanyl.
The suspect, 46-year-old Magdalena Silva Banuelos, was indicted on charges of distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death. Banuelos' boyfriend and the father of her sons died after consuming fentanyl that the suspect reportedly gave him.
According to an announcement by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas, the mother attempted to conceal the fentanyl inside her boys' luggage. On May 31, Banuelos placed her sons on a flight from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Dallas, Texas, to visit their dad.
A detention hearing on Nov. 17 detailed the connection between Banuelos and her boyfriend, revealing that they were in an on-again-off-again relationship. During the hearing, a prosecutor claimed that Banuelos "used her minor children to mule drugs."
The suspect was detained in anticipation of an upcoming trial. If convicted, Banuelos faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years and up to life in federal prison.
Surveillance video shows the boys' father picking them up at Dallas Love Field Airport and going through their luggage before entering an airport bathroom around 10:26 p.m., according to authorities. The man overdosed and died in a stall near his sons.
Investigators recovered more than a gram of fentanyl hidden inside a Clinique makeup container. The text messages they recovered between Banuelos and her boyfriend suggest that the mother knew he planned to ingest it and was aware of the risks.
The suspect reminded her boys' father to be careful in a message she wrote to him a few hours before he died. After he responded that he would take it "Very slow and easy," Banuelos told him to take only one.
"No passing out on the kitchen floor," she wrote in a follow-up message. "Seriously you could od. No dying on the kitchen floor. … It’s going to f**k you up!!!”
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham expressed sympathy for the two children, saying that losing a parent "due to the actions of the other is a calamity for a child."
"This defendant allegedly concealed fentanyl — a synthetic opioid 50 times more potent than heroin — in her minor sons' luggage," Meacham said. "This drug has stolen too many futures and ruined too many lives. The Justice Department remains determined to hold accountable those who spread it."
Acting Special Agent in Charge W. Guy Baker of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's Dallas Field Division said in a separate statement that the arrest is another example "of the devastation that fentanyl continues to reap on families throughout the country."
According to a Bicycle Health survey conducted in July, more than half of Americans know someone with an opioid addiction, and nearly a quarter fear they could become addicted to opioids.
The survey assessed 1,103 people ages 18 to 82, with an average age of 36. Forty-eight percent of survey respondents were women, 50% were men, and another 2% were nonbinary.
Another survey, which analyzed 1,000 likely U.S. voters, found that 91% of participants believe the country's fentanyl issue is serious, with 73% describing it as a "very serious problem." The survey was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research LLC for Rasmussen Reports from Sept. 26 to Sept. 27.
An analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that fentanyl overdose is the leading cause of death among adults ages 18-45 in the U.S.
A CDC report released in May also found that overdose deaths from opioids increased from over 70,000 in 2020 to over 80,000 in 2021. Over 71,000 of those 2021 opioid deaths came from overdoses of synthetic fentanyl, up from around 57,000 in 2020.
In September, New York authorities arrested a New Jersey woman who also allegedly attempted to traffic fentanyl by concealing the drug inside a Lego box. Authorities seized 15,000 rainbow-colored fentanyl pills in one of the largest fentanyl busts in the city's history.
Last month, another fentanyl seizure occurred at Los Angeles International Airport after a suspect attempted to sneak around 12,000 fentanyl pills concealed in candy boxes through TSA.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Narcotics Bureau Detectives and Drug Enforcement Agency agents assigned to the airport discovered the pills inside boxes of Sweetarts, Skittles and Whoppers.
Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.