April 11, 2022: DEA warns about mass fentanyl poisoning events
Last week, the DEA issued a memo to law enforcement across the county about an uptick in deadly events involving fake prescription pills, cocaine or methamphetamine adulterated with fentanyl. PSM found news stories about pressed pills made with fentanyl in 18 states. A naturopathic doctor pleaded guilty to faking vaccination records. Regulators discovered more fake prescription drugs circulating in Mexico.
Juli Mazi, a Napa, California-based licensed naturopathic doctor pleaded guilty to selling “homeoprophylaxis immunization pellets” and faking COVID-19 vaccination cards to make it look as if 200 of her patients had received the Moderna vaccine. Court documents say that she also provided fake school immunization cards to more than 100 individuals who sought to evade state vaccine requirements.
Counterfeit pills across the country
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram issued a memo to law enforcement across the country warning them that there were at least seven confirmed mass overdose events involving fake prescription pills, cocaine or methamphetamines adulterated with fentanyl over the last two months.
A March 2022 study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence examined quarterly data from High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas between 2018 and 2021 and found that seizures of fentanyl in pill form increased in prevalence from just under 14% in 2018 to almost 30% in 2021.
In the Northeast
Officers from the narcotics unit and major crimes detectives in Pawtucket, Massachusetts arrested a 32-year-old in connection with a January 2022 drug death. A search of his home yielded 726 counterfeit pills that tested positive for fentanyl, as well as other drugs.
In the South
In Jackson, Mississippi, Carlos Dominique Allen received a 124-year prison sentence for drug trafficking after selling the counterfeit pills made with fentanyl that killed 26-year-old Austin Elliott in February 2021.
On April 7th, officials in Buncombe County, North Carolina issued an alert reporting a surge of drug poisonings as a result of fentanyl in counterfeit Xanax pills and in cocaine.
Police in Mooresville, North Carolina arrested a man after they searched two homes and found 2.000 fentanyl pills and 151 grams of other illicit drugs.
In Texas, Houston authorities reported seizing 5,000 suspected fentanyl pills and suspected fentanyl powder from a car on the east side of the city. Fentanyl has become the leading cause of drug deaths in Harris County.
In Austin, Texas, the Austin-Travis County EMS warned about an increase in fentanyl pills being sold to teenagers over the past three months.
An Ohio man was indicted on gun and drug charges after West Virginia State Police found suspected fentanyl, counterfeit Xanax pills, methamphetamine, a pill press, and a gun in his car during a traffic stop on Wheeling Island in early March.
A federal judge sentenced Arlington, Virginia resident Taurean Venable to ten years in prison for his role in a drug ring that made fentanyl pills and sold them in Arlington and Washington, D.C. Venable is the third member of the conspiracy to be sentenced.
Law enforcement in Orange County, Florida arrested twelve people and confiscated $300,000 worth of counterfeit oxycodone pills, shutting down a drug ring they say was being directed by an inmate in the Orange County jail.
In the Midwest
In Indiana, the Evansville Police Department concluded an investigation into a counterfeit pill operation being run out of a home. They arrested two men and seized suspected fentanyl. thousands of pills, two pill presses and die molds.
In another Evansville case, authorities arrested two people and charged them with neglect after they found a pill press and a variety of pills, somet of which tested positive for fentanyl, in a home where an infant was living.
The Drug Enforcement Administration’s St. Louis Division announced the launch of the Northeast Kansas “One Pill Can Kill Initiative,” in which the DEA and local police departments will share data to help combat the fentanyl pills trafficking organizations in the area.
Meanwhile, working with the DEA, the Wichita Police Department seized almost 7,000 fentanyl pills during a traffic stop on March 28.
In the Mountain West
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona charged a 20-year-old Phoenix man with possession for distribution after law enforcement found approximately 150,000 blue pills of suspected fentanyl and 25 kilograms of other illicit drugs.
Arizona’s Attorney General warned people attending Country Thunder about the danger of fentanyl pills in the area.
Maricopa, Arizona police seized over 100 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl during a traffic stop on April 6th.
Three Nevada residents are being prosecuted for allegedly providing the fake roxicodone pills made with fentanyl that killed Nicole Steib in late 2019.
In Greeley, Colorado, Zachary English's parents are warning others about fentanyl. He died after taking half a fake oxycodone pill in December 2019.
Another Colorado resident, 17-year-old Sofia Christoff in Boulder, is also speaking out. She survived fentanyl poisoning caused by a half of a counterfeit Percocet pill in February 2021.
The Great Falls, Montana Police Department warned about an increase of fake oxycodone pills in Cascade County, after there had been five suspected fentanyl poisonings, two fatal, in the first five days of April.
A federal jury convicted Cheyenne, Wyoming resident Daniel Patrick Gutierrez of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. An informant told police that Gutierrez traded meth or fentanyl pills to juveniles and adults in the city in exchange for firearms, including stolen ones. An August 2021 search of his home yielded small quantities of suspected meth, suspected fentanyl pills and drug paraphernalia.
In the Pacific West
Police in Portland, Oregon found more than 1,000 pills suspected to contain fentanyl in a stolen rental car.
Seaside, California resident Xavier Robledo received an eight-year federal prison sentence for selling counterfeit pills that caused fentanyl poisoning in two people, killing one of them in May 2020.
Police in Buena Park, California reported that they had arrested two men and seized 21 pounds of fentanyl pills and over 1,000 pounds of other methamphetamine and cocaine on March 17.
Amanda Eubanks of Redding, California spoke to People Magazine about the loss of her son, Luca Manuel, to a counterfeit Percocet made with fentanyl in August 2020. Luca ordered the pill from a drug dealer online and died the day before he was supposed to start eighth grade.
Candace Varner of Atascadero spoke about her daughter, Reidley, who died of fentanyl poisoning in February 2021 after taking a counterfeit pill. She was 17.
Sharon Murfin of Spokane, Washington shared the story of her 17-month-old granddaughter Serenity, who died of fentanyl poisoning on December 5, 2021 after she was exposed to fake prescription pills made with the drug in her parents’ home.
28-year-old Kennewick, Washington resident Jesus Zavala-Alvarez will serve more than 11 years in prison for guarding a stash house where DEA agents found 19,000 fentanyl pills and large quantities of methamphetamine in April 2020.
Fairbanks, Alaska resident Andre Ronell Brown received a 14-year prison sentence for selling the counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl that killed a man on October 28, 2020.