San Diego is in the Midst of a Deadly Counterfeit Pill Crisis, with 50 Confirmed Deaths Thus Far

Counterfeit oxycodone
Source: Jamestown, North Dakota Police Department

U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer has issued a public safety warning concerning deadly counterfeit oxycodone pills in San Diego County. NBC San Diego reports, “The U.S. Attorney’s Office said border seizures, prosecutions and overdoses in San Diego County are on pace to reach all-time highs by the end of 2019. The Medical Examiner’s Office reports 50 confirmed fentanyl-related fatal overdoses so far this year, and says 28 more suspected cases are waiting to be confirmed.”

This warning follows closely on the heels of a report from CNN describing how 4 people in the San Diego area died within a 24-hour period as a result of taking the counterfeit oxycodone made with fentanyl. According to an earlier report from NBC San Diego, San Diego Sheriff’s deputies described the counterfeits as round blue pills imprinted with an “M” inside a square on one side, and the number “30” on the other side.

This spate of counterfeit pill deaths is only the latest in Diego’s association with counterfeit pills made with fentanyl. The Times of San Diego reported in mid-July that a woman named April Spring Kelly pleaded guilty to federal charges that she smuggled more than 450,000 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl into the United States from Mexico. Kelly was caught at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in 2018 with approximately 36 pounds of methamphetamine, 37 pounds of cocaine, and a dozen pounds of powdered fentanyl in her car. 

In another counterfeit pill case in San Diego, the Saint Louis Dispatch is reporting that Brandon Arias pleaded guilty to his role selling 1,000 fake pills made with fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl via a drug marketplace online. Arias was one of two people operating the “Drug Llama” account.  His co-conspirator, Melissa Scanlan has pleaded not guilty and will face trial in late August.

DEA Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers warned the public via NBC San Diego: “Your dealer, BFF, lover, or classmate may become your murderer and the medical examiner may become your personal physician. Life is precious. Don’t gamble yours away for a quick high that sends you home from the party in a body bag.”