July 18, 2022: Final defendant in fake Adderall dark web ring sentenced

A busy week in counterfeit pills included another warning about xylazine in counterfeit pills, the seizure of a million fentanyl pills in California, and the final sentencing in a ring of fake Adderall traffickers in suburban Virginia. An additional 26 stories cover news in 17 states. 

39-year-old Tyler Pham of Fairfax, Virginia received a 52-month prison sentence for selling at least 44,000 fake Adderall pills made with meth via the dark web. He was the last of seven people to be sentenced in the case. Learn more in Hidden Meth in the Suburbs.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced that federal agents had seized about one million fentanyl pills disguised as counterfeit prescription painkillers when they searched a stash house in Inglewood, California on July 5th.

This ring shipped fake Adderall in raisin boxes. Watch Hidden Meth in the Suburbs.

The District Attorney’s Office in Berkshire County, Massachusetts warned that 28 percent of opioid samples in the county—in both pill and powder form—had tested positive for xylazine, a potentially deadly non-opioid sedative. Xylazine is a relatively recent addition in the counterfeit pill market, and is especially dangerous because it does not respond to naloxone and will not show up in fentanyl test strips. Similar pills have been reported in Maryland, Michigan and New Jersey.

WBUR discussed xylazine in-depth on July 18th. Click play to listen.

fragmented pill that contains xylazine

Pill made with fentanyl and xylazine found in Lynn, Massachusetts. (MADDS)

Counterfeit pills across the country

In the South

10,000 controlled substance tablets—including those made with fentanyl—seized in Decatur, Alabama. (Morgan County Sheriff's Office)

Law enforcement in Decatur, Alabama seized 10,000 to 12,000 counterfeit prescription pills that were presumed to be alprazolam, the active ingredient in Xanax.

The coroner’s office in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana warned about the danger of counterfeit pills made with fentanyl after the deaths of a 15-year-old from Bush and 22-year-old Cameron Landry from Slidell.

The Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office found over 2,000 fentanyl pills among many other drugs during the search of an alleged drug dealer's home in Holden, Louisiana.

Nine people in Seguin, Texas were arrested for the alleged distribution of meth, fake Percocet pills made of fentanyl, and alprazolam (Xanax) pills.

On the East Coast

Luis Colon of Stratford, Connecticut received a 32-month sentence for fentanyl and gun charges. Investigators seized more than 300 fentanyl pills disguised as oxycodone, 61 grams of cocaine, 11 firearms, and almost $25,000 from his home in December 2020.

A grand jury in Norfolk County, Massachusetts indicted two alleged drug traffickers after law enforcement found over 10 grams of suspected fentanyl powder, $30,000 in cash, and a pill press in their hotel room in March 2022.

In the Pacific West

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Otay Mesa port of entry in California searched a GMC Yukon and discovered over 100 pounds of fentanyl—almost 60 pounds of it in pill form— hidden in flour bags, ground coffee, ​​creamer cans and powdered milk cans.

22-year-old Virgil Xavier Bordner pleaded no contest to selling the counterfeit oxycodone pills that killed 17-year-old Rocklin, California resident Zach Didier in December 2020.

A 75-year-old Yakima, Washington resident was charged with selling the counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl that led to the death of a 55-year-old man on July 12th.

CBP officers at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry found fentanyl and fentanyl pills in flour bags and other food items. (CBP)

Officers at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry found fentanyl and fentanyl pills in flour bags and other food items. (CBP)

In the Mountain West

During a presentation in Mohave County, Arizona about the risks of buying drugs on social media, authorities shared a recent case in which a parent died of fentanyl poisoning after taking a counterfeit Xanax their teenager had given them.

Like many bereaved parents across the country, Amy Neville is still working to get the word out about the threat fentanyl pills pose to Americans, and especially Arizona teens. Her 14-year-old son Alex died of acute fentanyl poisoning after taking what he thought was a single oxycodone pill in 2020.

A notification from the U.S. Postal Inspector and the DEA about a package of 115 fentanyl pills  led the sheriff's office in Summit, Colorado to arrest the recipient, who was living in employee housing at Copper Mountain.

Colorado State Patrol troopers found 10 pounds of counterfeit pills made with fentanyl during a traffic stop on I-70.

Police in Colorado Springs, Colorado arrested a pair of alleged drug dealers working out of a family-owned liquor store, seizing 2,000 fentanyl pills, and more than six pounds of other drugs. A separate arrest of two more alleged drug dealers involved the seizure of 148 fentanyl pills and 10 grams of methamphetamine.

Sheriff’s deputies in Washoe County, Nevada seized almost six pounds of suspected fentanyl pills during a traffic stop in Verdi on July 8th.

The Colorado Springs Gazette published an in-depth piece about Bruce Holder, a Grand Junction man who recruited his family members to sell fentanyl pills he smuggled across the Mexican border.

Investigators have linked his drug trafficking activities to nine deaths—among them Jonathan Ellington, Ashley Romero, Bradyn Heit and a 19-year-old named Daniel—over a 17-month period in 2017 and 2018.

Holder’s sentencing is scheduled for August 2022.

PSM covered this case in "Counterfeiting Charges Stick" shortly after Holder was convicted.

In the Midwest

A sharp increase in fake pills made with fentanyl in Iowa led Sebastian Kidd's family to speak out about the dangers. Sebastian died of fentanyl poisoning in 2021 after taking half of a Percocet pill. In Wichita, Kansas, CJ Madison’s dad Jim is also trying to warn people.

DEA investigators in Omaha, Nebraska announced that they had seized 32,000 fake pills made with fentanyl in early July. In the first half of 2022 the DEA confiscated 151,500 pills across Nebraska, 83 percent more than they seized in all of 2021.

Meanwhile, Omaha residents Mike and Liz Griffith, who lost their daughter Taryn to fentanyl poisoning after she took a fake Percocet in November 2021, are lobbying for stiffer penalties for drug dealers who sell drugs that kill people.

Law enforcement busted a pill manufacturing operation in Fremont, Ohio, seizing suspected fentanyl pills and cocaine, vials of steroids and pill manufacturing equipment.

A couple in Green Bay, Wisconsin was charged with neglect resulting in death after their 18-month-old toddler died of fentanyl poisoning and counterfeit pills made with the drug were found in their home. Two four-year-old children have died from fentanyl poisoning in Fountain, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada. The six-year-old sibling of the child in Las Vegas was also poisoned.