PLACER COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — A Placer County Sheriff’s K-9 unit potentially saved “countless lives” when the dog’s keen senses sniffed out a duffle bag full of suspected fentanyl, deputies said.

The drug bust happened while a deputy was conducting a traffic stop on Rocklin Road east of Interstate-80 on November 17. The deputy detained two men, 30-year-old Jorge Vega and 30-year-old Oscar Silvas, who were inside the vehicle, while his K-9, Ruger, conducted a “sniff” of the vehicle, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Ruger alerted his handler to a duffle bag hidden behind the passenger seat that contained 60,000 suspected blue fentanyl pills weighing 15 pounds.

Vega and Silvas were arrested for narcotics possession and transportation/sales of a controlled substance.

“We commend our deputies for the following arrest, as they potentially saved countless lives here in Placer County! We want our community to understand how seriously we take each traffic stop and encounter with those who do not follow the law. Our purpose is to ensure the safety of our community, especially from this deadly synthetic opioid,” the Placer County Sheriff’s Office wrote Tuesday.

Ruger (Image courtesy Placer County Sheriff’s Office)

Fentanyl is currently the No. 1 killer of 18-45 year olds, surpassing car accidents and suicides, in Placer County. The Northern California county had a 450% increase in fentanyl deaths between 2019-2021. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a “One Pill Can Kill” public health warning and campaign earlier this year. Recent DEA lab testing revealed that, on average, six out of 10 fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills contain a lethal dose of fentanyl.

(Image courtesy DEA)

“Criminal drug networks are mass-producing fake pills and falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills to deceive the American public,” the DEA wrote. “Fake prescription pills are easily accessible and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms, making them available to anyone with a smartphone, including minors.”