October 18, 2021: 33 years for fentanyl trafficker indicted in Operation Denial

Rhode Island resident Steven Barros Pinto received a 33-year federal prison sentence for his role in an international drug ring that distributed fentanyl and fentanyl analogues from Canada and China, often in the form of counterfeit pills, across the U.S.

Pinto is one of 32 people indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in connection with Operation Denial, an investigation that began after the death of a North Dakota man in January 2015, and is still ongoing.

Other news from the northeast

Earlier this month, 73-year-old Gladys Araceli Ceron of North Andover, Massachusetts received a two-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to charges related to her 15-year business treating individuals with dangerous, illegal silicone injections.

The Supervisory Special Agent for the DEA’s Philadelphia Field Division reported a sharp increase in the size of fentanyl pill seizures that he says indicates the increased availability of the pills.

Homeland Security’s Baltimore office reported seizing about 1,000 counterfeit COVID-10 vaccine cards on their way from China to the Baltimore area.


Investigators from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office arrested two Arizona residents who were allegedly in the process of selling 50,000 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl to a federal agent. The deputies seized hundreds of thousands of pills from the pair’s vehicle during the bust.

A Bartlesville, Oklahoma woman bought billboard space to warn residents about the dangers of fentanyl after losing her 18-year-old son Zach to a counterfeit pill in January 2021.

An Amarillo, Texas resident appeared in court after authorities found kilogram quantities of cocaine and heroin and counterfeit oxycodone pills in his home.

Florida’s attorney general launched a website to help educate residents about the dangers of counterfeit pills.

Amber Sanders put up a billboard in Bartlesville, Oklahoma to warn others after she lost her son Zach to a fentanyl pill.


A mother in Fort Wayne, Indiana is being prosecuted for the death of her two-year-old son, who suffered fentanyl poisoning after allegedly ingesting her fake Percocet pills.

The medical director at Fort Wayne’s Parkview Regional Medical Center Emergency Department warned that the hospital was seeing an increase in fentanyl poisonings as a result of counterfeit medicine.

The DEA’s Omaha Division reported seizing 32,000 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in Nebraska so far this year—three times the amount seized in 2020.

Pacific West

K9 officer Beny detected 10,000 fentanyl pills in Merced, California. (Images: Merced Police Department)

Jiovanni Nunez of Mount Vernon, Washington received a sentence of more than eight years in prison for distributing counterfeit oxycodone pills that made their way throughout Skagit and Whatcom Counties. The pills poisoned at least two people, including a 17-year-old who died on November 9, 2019.

Officers in Seattle, Washington seized illicit drugs, including more than 2,000 fentanyl pills, and rescued three adult dogs and four puppies from a motel in the city’s Queen Anne Neighborhood.

A 17-year-old has been charged in the death of Lauren Larson, a 16-year-old in Ellenburg, Washington who died of fentanyl poisoning in September after she took a fake Percocet pill.

A California Highway Patrol trooper seized 10,000 fentanyl pills and about $30,000 in Merced after his police dog alerted to a vehicle during a traffic stop.

Border Patrol agents in California’s El Centro Sector arrested a man who had two packages of fentanyl pills strapped to his body.

Mountain West

Derek Tuschoff of Boise, Idaho and Robert B. Mahan Jr. of Phoenix, Arizona received sentences of seven and ten years, respectively, for distributing methamphetamine and fentanyl. Investigators found the pair with illicit drugs, including several hundred fentanyl pills, and almost $40,000 in cash in July 2019.

Allen Eugene McLean of Nampa, Idaho, who pleaded guilty to meth distribution this week, also admitted selling fentanyl pills on three occasions, even though he knew the pills were killing people.

Brandon Wayne Glover of Havre, Montana admitted to drug trafficking charges after law enforcement found methamphetamine, fentanyl pills, $12,100 in cash and a firearm in his hotel room.

A Missoula, Montana man faces drug charges after law enforcement found distribution quantities of meth and fentanyl pills and 21 firearms in his home.