July 25, 2022: Pangea XV takes $11 million in fake drugs out of circulation.
94 countries seized 3 million doses of unauthorized and fake medicines—including hundreds of thousands of COVID test kits—during Interpol’s weeklong Operation Pangea. The Mesa County, Colorado Sheriff reported finding a different dangerous synthetic opioid in fake oxycodone pills. The news covered an additional 22 counterfeit pill incidents in a dozen states.
Interpol reported the results of Operation Pangea XV, this year’s weeklong, worldwide crackdown on illicit online pharmacies. Between June 23 and June 30, 94 participating countries seized three million doses of illicit and misbranded medicine and healthcare products worth $11 million, removed more than 4,000 websites and links advertising illicit products, and opened more than 600 new investigations. Notably, the United States and several other countries seized more than 317,000 unauthorized COVID-19 test kits which, if legitimate, would have been worth more than $3 million.
In Colorado, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office warned about blue M30 pills made with n-pyrrolidino etonitazene (street name “pyro”). The novel synthetic opioid poses a significant new danger because it is much stronger than fentanyl.
Counterfeit pills across the country
In the South
Agents with the Lauderdale County (Alabama) Drug Task Force confiscated more than 4,000 of fentanyl pills and six pounds of crystal methamphetamines during the search of a residence in Florence.
Tasha Edwards, a Buford, Georgia mother whose daughter, Breanna Scott, died after taking a fentanyl pill at a party in 2020, warned other parents about a spike in drug poisoning deaths in metro Atlanta.
A Gainesville, Georgia man is facing fentanyl trafficking and felony murder charges for allegedly providing the pills that killed someone in November 2021. A search of his home yielded fentanyl pills and other drugs, 15 firearms and $40,000.
Many, Louisiana resident Ronald Carnell Holland Jr. received a 111-month sentence for possession with intent to distribute flualprazolam pills and for illegal possession of firearms. Flualprazolam is a benzodiazepine that is not approved for use in the U.S.
Archie Arsenio Caldwell, of Rock Hill, South Carolina, was sentenced to 25 years for conspiracy to distribute illicit drugs. Caldwell was part of a ring that sold various drugs, including fentanyl that they made into pills in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. Caldwell is the 13th of 18 defendants to plead guilty.
In the Midwest
Police in Hutchinson, Kansas seized about 100 suspected counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl during a traffic stop.
Law enforcement found fentanyl pills while investigating a security breach at the Sedgwick County Jail in Kansas.
A teenager in Bloomington, Minnesota has been indicted for murder after he allegedly sold a 15-year-old in West St. Paul counterfeit Percocet pills made with fentanyl that killed her.
In the Mountain West
Jorge Alexander Che-Quiab of Aurora, Colorado will serve at least a 64-year sentence for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl, giving a 16-year-old a fatal fentanyl pill, and going to sleep rather than calling 911 to save her.
Shanea Sheree Arellano received a ten-year sentence after police found almost 700 suspected fentanyl pills and four-and-one-half grams of suspected meth in her Cortez, Colorado home while they were investigating illegal drug distribution.
The Mesa County Sheriff's Office also seized six pounds of methamphetamine and "several hundred" suspected fentanyl pills during a traffic stop near the Utah border on July 17th.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Dakota charged four people who allegedly conspired to distribute counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in the northeastern part of the state.
In the Pacific West
Maria Delgado of Culiacán, Mexico received a four-year sentence for trafficking heroin and fentanyl, including 1,350 pills made with fentanyl that she sold to an undercover officer. Co-defendant Renato Aguilera of Porterville, California already received a more than seven-year sentence. A third defendant, Porterville resident James Cox, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Police officers in Burbank, California seized 100,000 fake oxycodone pills that tested positive for fentanyl when they stopped two Arizona men in a vehicle on July 12th.
U.S. Border Patrol Agents in Campo, California arrested a man who tried to smuggle approximately 250 pounds of fentanyl pills hidden in his truck’s spare tire and gas tank.
Two Californians, one from Fullerton and another from Anaheim were indicted for allegedly supplying thousands of fentanyl pills to a drug ring in Wise County, Virginia between November 1, 2020, and June 20, 2022. The pills they shipped caused serious injury to two high school students.
A federal grand jury indicted two men for allegedly importing 91,000 fentanyl pills from Mexico into Whatcom County, Washington. The men were caught delivering a duffle bag of 22 pounds of the pills concealed in cardboard boxes and potato chip containers to a Homeland Security Investigations informant.
Police in Seattle, Washington reported the seizure of 6,700 fentanyl pills and more than six pounds of other drugs when they pulled over an alleged drug dealer on July 12th.
Police in Spokane Valley, WA raided a hotel this week, seizing fentanyl pills and other drugs and arresting eight people. There had been more than 780 police calls to the property in the last year.
A Marysville, Washington couple are facing federal drug charges after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Los Angeles found M30 pill press molds in a package from China labeled as furniture parts addressed to them. A search of their home turned up a pill press and other pill-making equipment, and bank records showed transfer of $400,000 to a cryptocurrency exchange.