January 6, 2023: Fake pills involved in 25% of teen drug deaths since 2019, says CDC.

This roundup, which covers news from December 12 to January 2, includes the CDC reporting a frightening increase in teen drug deaths; federal courts prosecuting criminals selling fake medical masks and illegally imported Bulgarian drugs;  fake medicine in Mexico, the EU, Canada, and seven more countries; coverage of substantial prosecutions, seizures and pill deaths in 28 states.

Read tips for talking to your family about fentanyl.

A December 16, 2022 article in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that overdose deaths among 14 to 18 year-olds increased 94% between 2019 and 2020, and another 20% from 2020 to 2021.

Approximately 25% of adolescent deaths had evidence of counterfeit pills. Make sure the teens in your life understand the risks of taking prescription medicine that wasn't subscribed to them.

68-year-old Mark Forrest Cohn of Chandler, Arizona will serve a year of probation and pay more than $8,000 for importing and selling more than 20,000 fake 3M masks to a vendor that supplied equipment to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center warehouse in Minneapolis. The counterfeits were caught before they reached front-line workers.

Federal courts indicted a Hancock County, West Virginia resident who allegedly illegally received and repackaged shipments of the controlled substances diazepam, lorazepam, tapentadol and zolpidem from Bulgaria.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Cincinnati intercepted 28,600 tablets of sildenafil citrate, the active ingredient in Viagra, shipped from India.

2022 was a very busy year for counterfeit medicines. Watch our 2-minute recap to learn more.

International news

Mexico’s COFEPRIS issued a flurry of warnings about counterfeit drugs, including treatments for anxiety, cancer, pain, and blood clots. Mexico’s National Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry reports that six percent of drugs in the Mexican market are counterfeit.

Europol's Operation Shield III, carried out between April and October 2022, led to almost 200 investigations, the closure of drug labs websites, and the seizure of over ten million units of medicines and doping substances, and a million counterfeit COVID tests.

Police in Vancouver, Canada seized approximately $3 million in drugs, including 72 kilograms of fake pills made with fentanyl during a year-long investigation dubbed Project Torque.

Australian authorities alerted residents about circular yellow tablets sold as oxycodone that actually contained metonitazene. The drug has been linked to deaths in New Zealand and the U.S.

Authorities in Israel seized hundreds of counterfeit vials of Pregnyl 500 IU hormones, a fertility drug, that had been smuggled in from Turkey.

Six people in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City are being prosecuted for making and selling counterfeit medicines, including treatments for antibiotics, asthma and pain relievers.

Deaths as a result of counterfeit medicines were reported in Egypt, England, India and Uzbekistan.

Counterfeit pills made with fentanyl and other drugs

December 14, 2022 saw the launch of a new public health initiative about counterfeit medicines, fronted by cult action star Danny Trejo, who appears in a PSA directing Americans to “verify before you buy” at Safe.Pharmacy. The #BadMeds campaign aims to raise awareness among U.S. patients and providers about the danger of buying prescription medicine from anywhere other than licensed U.S. pharmacies.

The National Crime Prevention Council sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland calling for an investigation of the sale of fake pills made with fentanyl on Snapchat.

Over the winter holidays, bereaved families continued to speak out about the counterfeit pills deaths of loved ones in Aliso Viejo, Bakersfield and Rocklin, California; Denver and Grand Junction, Colorado; Hollywood, Florida; Kailua-Kona, Hawaii; Lafayette, Indiana; Lawrence and Shawnee, Kansas; Lincoln, Nebraska; Cypress, Texas and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

Poster for Danny Trejo's #BadMeds PSA (LASO)

In the Pacific West


25-year-old Geno Maciel of Fresno received an almost-15-year prison sentence for providing the fentanyl pill that killed a 16-year-old in July 2021.

A federal grand jury indicted two Westminster men who allegedly sold 120,000 fentanyl-laced pills and other drugs to approximately 1,500 U.S. customers using an account on a darknet market and the encrypted messaging application Wickr.

A San Jose man has been arrested for allegedly selling counterfeit pills made with fentanyl to several Los Gatos High School students, some of whom were treated for fentanyl poisoning after taking them.

Law enforcement in San Bernardino County seized almost 36 pounds of narcotics, including 1.4 pounds of fake oxycodone pills made of fentanyl,the week of December 9.

Police in Newport Beach, California reported seizing 50,000 fentanyl pills disguised as prescription oxycodone, Xanax and Adderall in early December.

Drugs and a gun seized by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department as part of Operation Consequences, December 2022


A traffic stop in Salem on December 22 led to the search of a home and the seizure of 55,000 fentanyl pills and 47 pounds of other illicit drugs.


Dwayne Douglas George of Spanaway, Washington received an eight-year sentence for his role in a drug ring that distributed methamphetamine, fentanyl, and tens of thousands of fentanyl pills in western Washington. Another Washington man, Preston Joseph Smith, received a seven-year sentence for similar activities.

The King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) and the Burien Police Department confiscated 478,000 fentanyl pills and more than 455 pounds of other drugs.

Law enforcement in eastern Washington seized more than 100,000 fentanyl pills and more than 52 pounds of other narcotics.

Detectives arrested a 36-year-old man after they allegedly found 8,000 fentanyl pills at his residence in East Wenatchee.

In the Mountain West


Border officers at the Nogales Port of Entry seized more than 1.5 million fentanyl pills in eight seizures over the week of December 5, and discovered 736,200 fentanyl pills and 196 pounds of methamphetamine hidden in a train car on December 21.

A Yavapai County man has been charged with manslaughter for allegedly selling the fentanyl pills that killed 28-year-old Trevor Rauch in August 2021.

Law enforcement seized 72,000 fentanyl pills in Tolleson and 10,000 fentanyl pills in Tucson.


Greeley, Colorado resident Andrew Durdy received a 40-year prison sentence after authorities found him in possession of 5,800 fentanyl pills.

Anthony Wahl of Copper Mountain pleaded guilty to possessing fentanyl with intent to manufacture or distribute. Law enforcement intercepted a package of fentanyl pills on its way to him in July 2022.


Five people were indicted for distribution of fentanyl pills that led to the death of a victim on June 22, 2022.


The U.S. Attorney's Office in Montana reported convicting 22 people for their participation in a drug ring tied to the Sinaloa Cartel that distributed 722,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl and over 2,000 pounds of methamphetamine across the state


Police found four pounds of fentanyl pills, three pounds of Xanax pills, 64 guns and other drugs when they searched a home in Reno.

The DEA's Las Vegas office shared a picture from a bust showing two bags filled with fentanyl pills hidden in a hollowed-out English dictionary.

Screenshot from Twitter

New Mexico

An Albuquerque man is facing federal drug and firearms charges after he allegedly sold an undercover FBI employee 140 grams of methamphetamine and 550 grams of fentanyl pills.


An eight-part Washington Post series about fentanyl in the U.S. covered a St. George-based fentanyl operation linked to Mexican cartels that distributed as many as 30,000 pills each month.


A Caspar man is facing federal charges after a buyer poisoned by his products tipped off law enforcement. A U.S. Postal Inspector and an agent with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation intercepted about 1,000 fake oxycodone pills that tested positive for fentanyl on their way to his home.

In the Midwest


Police seized cocaine and ten pounds of fentanyl pills from a car at a motel in Caseyville.


Rico Marion of Michigan City received a 37-year prison sentence for his role in a ring that sold fake oxycodone pills made with fentanyl in the Michigan City area between June and August 2021.

Two 19-year-olds were arrested for allegedly providing the fentanyl pills that killed an Evansville woman last October.

Authorities seized thousands of fentanyl pills from a home in Vanderburgh County,


Police in Ottawa, Kansas are investigating the fentanyl pill death of a Lawrence man on December 14.


St. Hilaire, Minnesota, resident Anthony Joseph Drury pleaded guilty to third-degree murder for buying his fiancee, 20-year-old Michaela Rose Constance Cooper, the fentanyl pills that killed her in December 2021.

The raid of a home and a storage facility near Minneapolis turned up 17,000 suspected fentanyl pills.

Law enforcement in Meeker County arrested a Minneapolis man after finding 900 fake oxycodone pills that tested positive for fentanyl during a traffic stop.


A 17-year-old from Ozark is facing murder charges for selling a 16-year-old acquaintance a fatal fentanyl pill via Snapchat in September.


The Central Ohio Major Drug Interdiction/HIDTA Task Force arrested three people and seized 19 kilograms of suspected fentanyl and approximately 22,000 fentanyl pills while searching three properties in Columbus.


A federal grand jury in Milwaukee charged 15 defendants with offenses related to trafficking kilogram quantities of fentanyl, fentanyl pills, and other illicit drugs from California for distribution in Milwaukee, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Chicago.

In the Northeast


Damian Cortez of Quincy received an eight-year sentence for his role in a ring that distributed fentanyl, including counterfeit fentanyl pills. A search of Cortez’s apartment in June 2020 yielded a commercial pill press, over a kilogram of fentanyl, and supplies to make fake oxycodone pills.

Saugus resident Nicole Benton received a two-year sentence for distributing more than 100,000 pressed fentanyl pills for a drug ring led by Vincent Caruso on Massachusetts’ North Shore.

Luis Sonier Bautista Moreta of Boston pleaded guilty to drug charges after he sold one kilogram of fentanyl and 6,000 counterfeit pills containing fentanyl to a cooperating source in 2021.

New Jersey

Authorities in Mount Laurel seized 10,000 fentanyl pills.

New York

Authorities in the Bronx and Queens announced separate prosecutions of men caught with 10,000 and 20,000 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl.

New Paltz resident Christopher Pulichene pleaded guilty in Ulster County Court to criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminal possession of a weapon. He was one of 12 men charged with distributing narcotics, including counterfeit pills made with heroin and methamphetamine, in June 2022.

The Dutchess County Drug Task Force warned residents that it had found fentanyl pills in a different format circulating in the area. The new pills are white, oblong and imprinted with 10/325 or M523.

Examples of different counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl. (Dutchess County [NY] Drug Task Force) 

In the South


Investigators charged an Auburn man with supplying counterfeit pills that poisoned a 21-year-old woman on December 28. Police say a search of his home yielded 16,000 Xanax, Percocet, and Adderall pills suspected to be counterfeits made with fentanyl, and other drugs.

Deaths with xylazine reported in Florida, 2021. (10 Tampa Bay)


Authorities sounded the alarm about xylazine, a non-opioid veterinary tranquilizer, in the illicit fentanyl supply. The drug is particularly concerning because it can’t be reversed with naloxone.

Tallahassee residents Jeffrey and Charice Williams were sentenced to ten and five years in prison, respectively, for drug trafficking charges. Detectives seized two pill presses, suspected fentanyl pills, MDMA pills, and other drugs while investigating the pair.

A Hollywood man was indicted for allegedly providing the counterfeit Xanax pill made with fentanyl that killed 21-year-old Melissa Hernandez in September 2021.

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office reported the seizure of 3,700 grams of fentanyl and other narcotics, over 16 pounds of marijuana, a pill press and 16 guns.


Monroe resident Oterrance Jackson received a 14-year federal prison sentence for drug trafficking.  A search of his home in 2020 yielded illicit drugs, including fake Viagra pills made with fentanyl.

Deputies with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office arrested five people who allegedly made and sold fentanyl pills in East Baton Rouge and Livingston.

North Carolina

A 19-year-old and a 24-year old were charged with death by distribution for allegedly providing the counterfeit pills made with fentanyl that killed a juvenile in Gaston County in September 2022.

The Rutherford County Sheriff's Office seized approximately 16,500 pills made of fentanyl  and 85 grams of fentanyl powder during the search of a home on December 14. Police also seized 800 pills in a Forest City home.

South Carolina

A Greenwood man is facing drug charges after police allegedly found him carrying drugs during a traffic stop. Police say that a search of his home turned up 1,000 purple pills of unknown contents, methamphetamine, and a pill press.


Ivan Eleodoro Garcia of Laredo pleaded guilty to transporting nearly one-and-one-half kilograms of fentanyl pills disguised as oxycodone in September 2022.

A federal grand jury in Lubbock indicted two people on drug charges after police found thousands of fentanyl pills in their hotel room in November 2022.


Two people were arrested in Culpeper after they were found with 5,000 fentanyl pills.