December 12, 2022: Fraudster sentenced for selling pesticides as COVID prevention

Andrecola's clients included first responders and government agencies

This week: Federal courts sentenced a New Jersey man for fraudulently selling pesticides for coronavirus prevention, and indicted a Florida woman who allegedly imported and sold unapproved Botox. The Biden Administration debuted a database that shares data on non-fatal opioid overdoses. The news also covered stories about fake medicine in India and Nigeria and counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in 16 states and Canada.

Paul Andrecola promoting fraudulent GClean products, February 2021 (YouTube screen shot from the New York Times)

63-year-old Paul Andrecola of Maple Shade, New Jersey received a 60-month prison sentence for selling more than $2.7 million worth of pesticides that he falsely claimed were registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as being effective against coronavirus. The purchasers of these unregistered pesticides included first responders in Delaware, Virginia, and Georgia, a janitorial supply company in New York, a school district in Wisconsin, and several U.S. government agencies.

A woman in Dunedin, Florida is facing federal charges for distribution of unapproved medicine and money laundering. Between July 2019 and April 2022 she allegedly imported unapproved versions of botulinum toxin type from a Korean company, and sold them as FDA-approved Botox to buyers across the United States.

A convenience store in Haralson County, Georgia is under investigation for allegedly selling supplements that contain tianeptine, a prescription medicine that has not been approved for use in the U.S. and is a controlled substance in Georgia. The Food and Drug Administration has warned that the drug can cause agitation, drowsiness, confusion, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, slowed or stopped breathing, coma, and death.

Pressed Counterfeit PIlls

The non-fatal overdose tracker offers better insight about what's happening with opioids across the country.  Find it at

The White House launched an accessible, nationwide dashboard that uses emergency medical services data to track non-fatal opioid overdoses in the U.S.

Across the country, families continue to work to prevent fentanyl pill deaths through education. This week saw news coverage about advocates in Sacramento, California, Lafayette, Colorado, Portland, Oregon, and the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana.

A police officer in New Westminster, British Columbia seized 500 grams of suspected fentanyl pills, eight kilograms of suspected fentanyl powder and three kilograms of other illicit drugs during a traffic stop on November 27.

In the Pacific West

The San Diego Police Department announced the seizure of around 50,000 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl at the end of a month-long investigation.  

Tigard, Oregon resident Cole Richard Killion was sentenced to six years in federal prison for narcotics trafficking. Homeland Security Investigations found thousands of fentanyl pills and other illicit drugs in his home in August 2021.

Jeray Lashawn Jessie, a former Portland resident living in Phoenix, Arizona, received a 60-month federal prison sentence for drug trafficking. Law enforcement caught Jessie and a passenger with 12,000 fentanyl pills on Highway 26 near Government Camp, Oregon.

12,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills seized from Jessie, March 2021. (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Oregon)

Officers in Olympia, Washington seized almost 600 fentanyl pills along with $6,200 and over 50 grams of other illicit drugs when they searched a man’s truck on November 30.

A police chase in Vancouver, Washington  on December 7 ended in the arrest of a man for possession of a stolen vehicle, methamphetamine and several hundred fentanyl pills.

A story about the fatal fentanyl pill poisoning of a Vancouver high school student last May raises good questions about how schools should handle these deaths.

In the Mountain West

Police in Loveland, Colorado seized more than 800 suspected fentanyl pills and arrested a hotel guest on November 30.

In Idaho, the Caldwell Police Department's SWAT team served a search warrant, seizing approximately 1,500 fentanyl pills, four pounds of crystal methamphetamine, hallucinogenic mushrooms and $3,500.

Police officers in Missoula, Montana discovered almost 2,000 fentanyl pills and some methamphetamine when they searched a hotel room on December 4.

In the Midwest

Police found more cocaine and more than 2,500 suspected fentanyl pills when they searched a home in Junction City, Kansas.

The Drug Enforcement Administration reported seeing an increase of cases in which drug traffickers in northeast Ohio were using pill presses to make fentanyl pills themselves, rather than relying on finished products smuggled over the southern border.

Drug agents in Wisconsin's Fox Valley and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration reported seizing 54,000 suspected fentanyl pills—the largest seizure of fentanyl in the Lake Winnebago drug unit’s history.

12 pounds of suspected fentanyl pills seized by Lake Winnebago area drug agents (Lake Winnebago Area Metropolitan Enforcement Group)

In the Northeast

A federal grand jury indicted four people residing in Roslindale, Dorchester and Hyde Park, Massachusetts for a fentanyl trafficking conspiracy. The November 2022 search of a “stash apartment” associated with the case turned up 22 kilograms of pills made with fentanyl, over 22 kilograms of fentanyl powder, three industrial pill presses and sealed envelopes containing pills.

Johanny Torres-Rojas of Worcester, Massachusetts pleaded guilty to drug distribution charges after selling fentanyl pills and methamphetamine pills to a confidential source on three different occasions between November 2019 and January 2020.

A man in Hyannis, Massachusetts is facing drug trafficking charges after a DEA investigation ended in a search of his home and a fentanyl seizure that included "a large number" of fake oxycodone pills.

With the help of two police dogs, police in Jamestown, New York seized around 50,000 fentanyl pills during a traffic stop.

The Dutchess County, New York Drug Task Force arrested 28-year-old Hyde Park man after an investigation into the sale of counterfeit oxycodone pills that were actually fentanyl.

Detectives seized more than 300 pink capsules suspected to contain fentanyl and a pill press from a home in New Castle, Pennsylvania.

50,000 pills seized by Jamestown, New York Police, December 2022 (Erie News Now)

In the South

A federal jury in Gainesville, Florida convicted Edwin Giovanny Mendoza-Verdugo on drug trafficking and firearms charges for his role in a conspiracy to distribute fentanyl pills disguised as oxycodone across northern Florida. Co-conspirators Jorge Mario Velasquez and Helio Rolando Lopez-Elizalde pleaded guilty. Velasquez received a 211-month sentence on December 9. Lopez-Elizalde awaits sentencing.

22-year-old Ashia Rhene McCray, 22, of Conway, South Carolina  got over ten years in federal prison for selling roxicodone pills made with fentanyl that killed an unnamed victim in October 2021.

In Oklahoma, the Kay County Sheriff’s Office reported that a traffic stop in Newkirk on December 3 yielded 204 fentanyl pills and over 220 grams of over illicit drugs.

21-year-old Oklahoma City resident Cameron Jermaine Payne received a 30-year state prison sentence for second degree murder after selling Kyle Ward, a former classmate, the fentanyl pills that killed him in October 2020.

A woman in Sallisaw, Oklahoma is facing first degree murder charges for allegedly selling Joshua Choate half of a fentanyl pill that killed him in April 2022.

About 10,000 pressed fentanyl tablets, 150 pounds of marijuana, and a variety of other drugs seized in Keyser, West Virginia, December 2022. (Cumberland Times-News)

The Washington, D.C. region is experiencing an uptick in fentanyl poisonings as a result of counterfeit pills among teens. Officers in Prince William County, Virginia responded to three cases in the past week, one of which was fatal.

At the same time, Prince William County Police are searching for a 37-year-old mother who has been charged with homicide in the fatal fentanyl poisoning of her 20-month-old son. Subsequent investigation found oxycodone that was not prescribed to her in her home.

The Blue Ridge Narcotics and Gang Task Force arrested two Culpeper, Virginia residents and seized 670 pressed fentanyl pills and two firearms.

Law enforcement in Keyser, West Virginia seized about 10,000 pressed fentanyl pills and more than 150 pounds of other illicit drugs during the search of a home on December 1.

International news

In India, authorities in Himachal Pradesh are investigating the sale of counterfeit versions of high cholesterol and stroke treatments, allergy medicine and a non-opioid painkiller in Uttar Pradesh.

Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control arraigned several medicine dealers in federal court in Lagos for alleged importation of counterfeit painkillers, antihistamines and cold treatments.