July 12, 2021: South Carolina reports 500 fake pill poisonings since January 2020

In late June, South Carolina’s Opioid Emergency Response Team issued a warning about counterfeit roxicodone pills circulating in the state. Since January 2020, 500 people have suffered fentanyl poisoning after taking the blue pills, which they often acquired from a family member or friend without knowing contained fentanyl.

Suspected pill poisonings reported by South Carolina EMS, January 2020 - June 15, 2021 (Source: SC OERT)

...more news in the South Atlantic

A week after the DEA’s Washington, D.C. Division warned residents about an increase in poisoning deaths tied to counterfeit pills made with fentanyl, two D.C. mothers shared the loss of their daughters to fentanyl.

In Olney, Maryland, 21-year-old Matthew Loudon’s mother Deena spoke about his fentanyl poisoning death after he took a counterfeit pill in November 2020.

The Baltimore Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations arrested four people for the alleged manufacturing and distribution of both firearms and counterfeit pills. A raid of their property yielded 15 firearms and firearm manufacturing parts; illicit drugs in powdered form; thousands of pills, including fentanyl pills; and a large pill press.

The FDA warned about the dangers of "MMS" in August 2019.

Law enforcement in West Virginia reported recent fentanyl and pill press activity, including the discovery of individuals with pill presses and fake Xanax pills made with fentanyl.

Last week saw two articles about “Miracle Mineral Solution,” (MMS) a poisonous industrial bleach product sold as a cure-all by the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing in Bradenton, Florida. Bloomberg Businessweek published an in-depth piece on the history of the product and the BBC discussed the growth of its popularity as a (fraudulent) COVID cure in Latin America.

South Central & midwestern states

Federal authorities charged a Tulsa, Oklahoma woman with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. Agents found 270 grams of suspected fentanyl pills. as well as $30,000 and other drugs, during their search of a small plane she was taking to Oregon.

Police in Madisonville, Kentucky searched an apartment, arrested three men and found fentanyl pills and other illicit drugs. A raid yielded fentanyl pills in Paducah, Kentucky.

Police in Evansville, Indiana warned that counterfeit fentanyl pills were circulating in the area.

Five residents in Willmar, Minnesota were arrested for the possession of fentanyl pills.

Northeastern States

Francis Aybar-Peguero of Waterbury, Connecticut received an 87-month sentence for his role in a drug trafficking ring that sold fentanyl and heroin—including fentanyl pills disguised as Percocet, throughout New Haven County. Aybar-Peguero is one of 16 people charged in this investigation.

The owner of a physical therapy office in Bethel, Vermont was arrested for illegally importing carisoprodol (a controlled substance) without a drug license.

Police in Rockland, Maine issued a warning about pressed prescription pills made with fentanyl.


Federal and state authorities announced the arrest of four people who have allegedly been running a high-volume counterfeit Percocet operation on the North Shore. The investigation is part of a larger effort called “Operation Street Sweepah.”

A Lexington, Massachusetts physician and wife and his office manager are facing charges for health care fraud and for the illegal importation of non-FDA approved drugs from Hong Kong between 2008 and 2017.

Police in Clinton, Massachusetts arrested a resident who had allegedly been selling methamphetamine disguised as Adderall to middle and high school students.


California resident Victor D. Gutierrez, who pleaded guilty in March to shipping 3,000 fentanyl pills to Millcreek Township in May 2020, received a sentence of 6 years and 8 months in federal prison.

A Curwensville man was arrested after Lawrence Township Police found suspected drugs, drug paraphernalia and a pill press in his attic.

A Norristown, Pennsylvania woman was charged with selling oxycodone pills made with fentanyl and enlisting her 12- and 14-year-old daughters to help.

plastic bags full of pills

Images from video posted on Snapchat by an alleged drug ring working on the Massachusetts north shore. (Source: Criminal Complaint)

Mountain Western States

Patricia Deanne Lopez, who was caught trying to smuggle 40,000 small blue pills that tested positive for fentanyl through Arizona’s Mariposa Port of Entry in January 2021, received a three-and-one-half year prison sentence.

A federal grand jury indicted a Las Vegas, Nevada man for distributing the counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl that killed a 27-year-old victim.

Law enforcement in Colorado arrested an Evans resident, seizing over 3,400 suspected fentanyl pills and over 10 pounds of suspected methamphetamine.

Montana’s Division of Criminal Investigation reported that at least some of recent fentanyl poisoning deaths across the state were linked to prescription pills made with fentanyl.

A Coeur D'Alene, Idaho family is mourning their 15-year-old son, Michael Stabile, who was killed by a fentanyl pill in May.

Pacific Western States


Jiovanni Nunez of Mount Vernon pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute counterfeit oxycodone pills. Nunez supplied the pills to Rosaliana Lopez-Rodriguez, who sold them to a 17-year-old Bellingham resident who died of fentanyl poisoning in November 2019.

Federal authorities charged 12 people in the Seattle metropolitan area for their alleged participation in a drug trafficking scheme that included tens of thousands of counterfeit fentanyl tablets and a pill press to make them. These arrests follow the arrest and indictment of 24 defendants in April 2021.


El Cajon resident Olatunde James Temitope Akintonde pleaded guilty to selling two counterfeit oxycodone pills that fatally poisoned a 19-year-old Santee resident in 2019.

Detectives in Redding arrested a 19-year-old drug dealer they believe sold 13-year-old Luca Manuel the fake Percocet pill that killed him in August 2020. Luca purchased the pill via social media.

Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs’ widow and parents filed lawsuits in Los Angeles County Superior Court and Tarrant County (Texas) District Court, respectively, suing the team and two former employees for negligence and wrongful death. Skaggs died of fentanyl poisoning in Southlake, Texas on July 1, 2019, after taking counterfeit oxycodone pills that a former Angels employee allegedly supplied.

International News

Italian police announced that they had quashed several online schemes to sell fake European Union digital COVID-19 status certificates or purported coronavirus vaccines.

In Russia, black market COVID-19 vaccine certificates are readily available to those who are hesitant about being vaccinated.

Authorities in and near Mumbai, India are investigating at least 12 fake COVID-19 vaccine drives that injected as many as 2,500 people with saline instead of real vaccines. 14 people have been arrested in the scheme.

Investigations into fake vaccines are also ongoing in Uganda and Venezuela.


PSM is keeping a steady eye on public reports of dangerous counterfeit drugs and other medical products. Check back for next week’s summary.