August 22, 2022: U.S. families observe National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day
This week: On August 21st, families across the country observed National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day. Researchers found that over 60% of pills sold illicitly in DC are counterfeit. Stories involving fake prescription pills made with fentanyl in 17 states.
Grassroots advocates across the country and the Drug Enforcement Administration observed National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day. This event was organized by Andrea Thomas, who co-founded Voices for Awareness after her daughter, Ashley Romero, was killed by a counterfeit painkiller in 2018. Last week on CBS News, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram warned that proliferation of these pills means that, “There's no more dangerous place in the United States of America for a young person, 18 to 45 right now, than social media.”
A 56-month analysis of pharmaceutical pills sold illicitly in Washington, D.C. found that over 60 percent of them were counterfeit in 2021, and that 75 percent of the fake pills D.C.’s Department of Forensic Sciences have identified since April 2018 contained fentanyl.
Counterfeit pills across the country
In the South
Elkton, Maryland resident Keith B. Bell pleaded guilty to drug charges after investigators found a pound-and-a-half of fentanyl, almost a pound of cocaine, and a makeshift fentanyl-pill manufacturing lab in this home in February.
Police in Tupelo, Mississippi seized 800 fentanyl pills from a Los Angeles, California resident during a traffic stop and the subsequent search of his hotel room on August 17th.
Oklahoma’s Attorney General filed second-degree murder charges against the parents of a 6-year-old child who died of fentanyl poisoning in Oklahoma City on October 4, 2021. Investigators found three counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl hidden in a barbecue grill on the couple’s property.
Lancaster, South Carolina’s sheriff announced the arrest of 26 people for their roles in a trafficking ring that sold a variety of illicit drugs, including “controlled substances in pill form,” across the county, and in its parks and schools.
A Texas inmate is one of 42 people indicted for their parts in a scheme that used drones and mail to smuggle drugs and items such as cell phones into prisons in the Department of Criminal Justice. Seizures related to the case include “M30” fentanyl pills and other drugs, and approximately $150,000 in cash, jewelry and vehicles. The Dallas Observer wrote about another defendant and about this trend on August 15th.
As students return to school, police in Kyle, Texas warned about an uptick in fentanyl pill poisonings in the area.
In the Northeast
In Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Lucas Ropon received a four-and-a-half-year sentence after pleading guilty to delivering fake Percocet pills made with fentanyl that killed Nathan Smith, 19, and Jordan Martin, 21, in 2020.
In the Midwest
Michael Luntere Grayson of Kansas City, Kansas received a five-year federal prison sentence for conspiracy to distribute fentanyl pills in South Dakota. Officers with the South Dakota Highway Patrol found 278 grams of fentanyl pills and more than 250 grams of other drugs when they stopped his car on October 13, 2021.
In an article about the impact of fentanyl on Black Ohioans, Debbie Willis recalled her 29-year-old son Caleb, a talented musician and father who died of fentanyl poisoning after taking a fake prescription pill in July 2021.
In the Mountain West
Customs and Border Protection officers at the Nogales Port of Entry in Arizona confiscated 256,500 fentanyl pills made to resemble colorful candy in two separate seizures.
A Colorado family remembered a four-year-old who died of fentanyl poisoning in Fountain on July 13th after taking her mother’s counterfeit pills.
Federal courts in Idaho sentenced Danny Smith of Twin Falls to 121 months in prison for selling fentanyl pills in the Magic Valley. Officers found more than 5,500 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl and $123,000 in cash at Smith’s house in October 2021.
Idaho’s federal courts also sentenced Heriberto Valencia of Phoenix, Arizona to 120 months after he was caught with 1,000 fentanyl pills and more than a pound and a half of other illicit drugs while selling methamphetamine in Boise in November 2021.
Chantel Marie Azure of Billings, Montana pleaded guilty to her part in a methamphetamine and fentanyl pills trafficking ring on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation between December 2020 and January 2021.
Police in North Las Vegas, Nevada arrested a minor for second degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, and providing a schedule one or two controlled substance after he allegedly distributed counterfeit pills made with fentanyl that poisoned five middle school students, killing one of them, in February 2022.
A Casper, Wyoming man was charged with four felonies after a June traffic stop on his way back from Denver, Colorado allegedly yielded methamphetamine and fentanyl pills.
In the Pacific West
In California, Fresno County Sheriff’s deputies arrested two Washington men after finding them with three fire extinguishers that contained 15 pounds of fentanyl pills during a traffic stop on August 15th.
Two residents of Hilo, Hawaii were arrested for allegedly shipping drugs from California and Mexico to sell on the island of Hawaii. Hawaii police discovered that a package addressed to them contained fentanyl pills and methamphetamine in early August.
In Oregon, the Multnomah County Special Investigations Unit seized 800 pills made with fentanyl, multicolored fentanyl powder and other drugs from a suspect’s house.
A federal jury convicted Aaron Ramirez Espinoza, of Yakima, Washington, of drug trafficking in Montana after police caught him with a bag of meth and two bags of fentanyl pills at a gas station in Great Falls, Montana on May 12, 2022.
The family of Mercer Island, Washington resident William Charles Patterson published an obituary that warned about his death on July 22nd after taking an “M-30” oxycodone pill that was counterfeit and made with fentanyl.