Leader Of Counterfeit Fentanyl Pill Ring In Elmira, New York Pleads Guilty In Federal Court

Wondering what is fentanyl and how does it get into fake pills? Read PSM’s Fentanyl 101

An article in the Star Gazette announced the guilty plea of an Elmira, New York man who was one of the leaders of a counterfeit drug manufacturing and distribution ring. Robert Ian Thatcher pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess and distribute U-47700 and furanyl fentanyl. This drug ring manufactured counterfeit pills at homes in both New York and Pennsylvania, which were mostly distributed in the Elmira area as well as in North Carolina.

Thatcher purchased a pill press and tools on eBay, and the ingredients were bulk imported from China so that the drug ring could manufacture counterfeit 30 milligram Percocet pills. According to the plea agreement, starting in 2015 until May 16, 2017, once the pills were manufactured, a co-conspirator would distribute large quantities to other co-conspirators to sell on the street. Over the length of the conspiracy, this drug ring was responsible for tens of thousands of counterfeit pills.

Some of those pills turned out to be deadly. Although no names were given, two people – a woman with the initials B.S. and a male with the initials C.H. – died after ingesting pills made by this drug ring. A third individual, a man with the initials J.M., overdosed on more than one occasion from the counterfeit Percocet pills manufactured and distributed by this organization. The only reason he survived was that first responders used naloxone on him.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) press release, 13 of Thatcher’s drug ring members and associates have been convicted of federal narcotics offenses and await sentencing. U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. said, “Whether these criminals choose to pedal their deadly poison in urban, suburban, or rural areas, we will track you down and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. The opioid epidemic has taken far too many lives, but thanks to the efforts of many, including law enforcement, health officials, and treatment and prevention organizations, we are starting to stem this deadly tide.” Thatcher’s sentencing is scheduled for February 7, 2019.