Meth - Photo courtesy of Kira Garmashova on Shutterstock

At the request of his attorney, a bail reduction hearing was postponed Monday for a 20-year-old man accused of hauling large quantities of methamphetamine and fentanyl into Riverside County.

Joshua Lamar Chamberlain was arrested last month by U.S. Border Patrol agents in Indio following a traffic stop on Interstate 10.

Chamberlain is charged with distribution of controlled substances, transportation of illegal narcotics and two counts of possession of controlled substances for sale, with sentence-enhancing allegations of possessing in excess of 20 kilograms of illegal drugs.

The defendant was arraigned on June 29 and requested a bail reduction hearing before Superior Court Judge Dale Wells. However, because his public defender was only just assigned to the case, the attorney asked for a postponement, which the judge granted, rescheduling the hearing to Aug. 1 at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

The defendant is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

According to the Border Patrol, on the afternoon of June 24, agents conducting an anti-drug smuggling operation on I-10 stopped Chamberlain in his 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe near the Golf Center Parkway off-ramp.

A K-9 unit was deployed to search the vehicle, and the dog alerted to two black gym bags, according to agents.

The items were searched, netting 19 packages of meth, with an estimated street value of $126,630, along with seven packages of fentanyl, valued at $268,297, the Border Patrol said.

Chamberlain was taken into custody without incident. He has no documented prior felony or misdemeanor convictions in Riverside County.

Fentanyl is manufactured in overseas labs, including in China, and according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it’s smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by drug cartels. The substance is 80-100 times more potent than morphine and is a popular additive, mixed into any number of narcotics and pharmaceuticals. The ingestion of only two milligrams can be fatal.

District Attorney Mike Hestrin told the Board of Supervisors last month that there were nearly 500 fentanyl-induced deaths countywide in 2021, which represents a 250-fold increase from 2016, when only two such fatalities were documented.

Statistics published in May by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed there were roughly 108,000 fatal drug overdoses in 2021, and fentanyl poisoning accounted for over 80,000 of them.

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