Three recent stories from the Gulf Coast region show that counterfeit pain and anti-anxiety pills are still being found in towns big and small:
WLOX in southern Mississippi reported on a news conference called by Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warning the public about multiple recent seizures in the area of pills that looked like oxycodone, but that testing revealed to be counterfeits made with fentanyl. Papania stated “Over the course of the past few weeks, Gulfport narcotic detectives have seized multiple blue pills marked with an ‘A 215,’ which indicates that the pills are oxycodone. When the pills were analyzed at the DEA laboratory, the pills were found to contain fentanyl with no oxycodone present.” Both Papania and DEA Special Agent in Charge Darrell Smith stressed that taking just a single counterfeit pill made with fentanyl could be enough to kill someone. Gulfport Police are working hard to determine the source of the counterfeit pills. The full video of the news conference is available on WLOX’s website and the official public warning can be read on the Gulfport Police Department’s website.
Further east, The Newnan-Times Herald reported on charges against two Newnan, Georgia men for allegedly trafficking in what police believe are counterfeit Xanax pills. Robert Mitchell McAlkich IV and Leon Demetric Sapp were traveling in a car southbound on I-85 when they were pulled over by the police for speeding. After McAlkich consented to allow a search of the vehicle, police discovered a thin cardboard package hidden in the spare tire storage area. The package was mailed via the U.S. Postal Service from a sender in Kentucky. Inside the package were hundreds of Xanax pills. In a video interview conducted by Fox 5 Atlanta, Deputy Trent Hastings commented on how the pills have rough edges making the police suspect that they are counterfeit. Due to the hazard of fentanyl, the pills have been sent out to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime unit to be tested to find out what the pills are made off. You can learn more about the current state of counterfeit medicines in Georgia by reading PSM’s Georgia 2018 State Info Sheet.
To the south, an article in Florida’s Palm Beach Post reported on the federal indictment of Ross Riker and Adam O. De Barry for allegedly manufacturing and distributing thousands of counterfeit pain and anti-anxiety pills. According to the Criminal Complaint, over the course of the conspiracy, at least two homes and a rented warehouse in Palm Beach County were used as locations where the counterfeit pills could be pressed. Investigators learned of Riker and De Barry’s alleged participation in this scheme while executing a search warrant at Emerson and Nicole Benjoino’s house on June 14, 2017. An analysis of ledgers recovered determined that between May 26, 2016 and June 12, 2017, this group sold a total of 97,719 counterfeit pain pills made with fentanyl and 23,110 counterfeit Xanax pills. Data from mobile phones let authorities know about Riker and De Barry. On March 29 and 30, 2016, Riker and Benjoino exchanged links to news stories about nine people in Pinellas County dying because of counterfeit Xanax pills. It is not known if this group manufactured the deadly pills or not. You can learn more about counterfeit medicines by reading PSM’s Florida 2018 State Info Sheet.