Large-Scale Counterfeit Fentanyl Pill Press Operation Found In Akron, Ohio Home

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Police in Akron, Ohio arrested and charged a resident after inspectors found a package containing a pill die being shipped to his home, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. The manifest for the small package listed its contents as a single screw, but inside authorities found pill molds capable of making replicas of Percocet pills. A court document stated that this investigation into Donyea Nelson began on December 31, 2018.

Due to the recent discovery of numerous pill dies at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer targeted DHL packages. In several instances, manifests listed the illegal items as a “screw,” “screw sample,” “drill bit” or “drill bit sample.” The CBP officer targeted this one package because of where it came from, its low value of only $5, and its weight on 0.5 kilograms. A search of the CBP databases found five other packages dating back until September 2018 going to this same address with manifests for “SCREW,” “GREETING CARD SAMPLE,” “TABLET STAMPING MOLD,” “HARDWARE TOOLS,” and “SCREWS.” Shippers in China mailed five of the six packages. The final one came from the Netherlands.

On January 2, 2019, the CBP officer received legal permission to open the package and found six pill die molds inside. All were designed to create Percocet pills. The following day, a controlled delivery of the package occurred at its intended recipient, Donyea Nelson. The package had a tracking device inside and a second device capable of alerting law enforcement once it had been opened. Just over ten minutes after delivering the package, agents received a notification that notification. A search of the property ensued, and police turned up items “consistent with a large-scale pill press operation” including numerous powders, pills, and capsules.

Nelson faces a total of nine federal charges including possession of a die used to manufacture a counterfeit substance and possession of equipment used to manufacture a controlled substance, specifically a pill press. In a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) press release announcing the charges, U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said, “This case is a stark reminder that people who buy drugs on the street have no idea what they are putting into their body. This defendant was pressing pills to look like Percocet but his home was filled with deadly fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and other drugs. I am confident this arrest saved lives.” Homeland Security Investigations, CBP, and the Akron Police Department all worked to make this case possible. Assistant U.S. Attorney Damoun Delaviz will be prosecuting the case for the DOJ.