February 6, 2023: Researchers find Mexican border pharmacies selling Americans fentanyl pills

This week: Investigators found pharmacies in tourist areas selling fentanyl and meth pills disguised as real medicine. A grand jury indicted “healing magnet” sellers. Regulators addressed fake Mpox treatments and a questionable pharmacy. CBP seized tramadol on its way to Texas. Seven bereaved families joined a lawsuit against Snapchat, and additional news involving fake pills in17 states.

Discount Pharmacy in Nogales, Mexico, 2004. (J. Stephen Conn on Flickr)

Northern Mexican border pharmacies aren’t just selling Americans fake blood thinners. A recent ethnographic study surveyed 40 pharmacies in tourist-serving micro-neighborhoods and received fakes at almost 27 percent of them. Among 45 samples there were nine “Adderall” pills made with methamphetamine, eight “oxycodone” pills that contained fentanyl and another three made of heroin.

Investigators at the Los Angeles Times who purchased medicines in Tijuana, Cabo San Lucas, and San José del Cabo found similar results; 71% of the 17 pills they tested were found to contain more powerful drugs.

A federal grand jury in Puerto Rico indicted Magnetic Healer of PR Inc., an executive, and two employees on charges related to selling “healing magnets” to treat or prevent a variety of diseases and medical conditions, including COVID-19, while falsely claiming the product was FDA-authorized.

The Food and Drug Administration urged consumers to beware of marketers selling illegal and unproven Mpox "medication" and "cures."

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy fined Mint Pharmacy and Skin Clinic of Florida $10,000 and temporarily barred it from filling prescriptions for Iowa patients after it violated pharmacy practices, including dispensing prescription drugs solely on the basis of an Internet questionnaire.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Port of Shreveport, Louisiana seized a shipment labeled as B12 vitamins which actually contained tramadol pills. The package was on its way from Guatemala to Texas.

International News

A new report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime attributes nearly 500,000 deaths in sub-Saharan Africa every year to fake and substandard medicines.

Kuwaiti authorities seized 15 million illegally obtained Lyrica pills, half a ton of the medicine in powder form, and an encapsulating machine during a raid at a farm in Wafra.

Kuwaiti officials seized 15 million Lyrica pills and pill making supplies. (Kuwait News Agency)

Counterfeit pills made with fentanyl and other drugs

The Social Media Victims Law Center added seven families to its existing lawsuit against Snapchat for allegedly connecting drug dealers to minors and young adults, resulting in their deaths. The new plaintiffs are the families of Cooper Davis, 16, from Shawnee, Kansas; Fernando Sanchez, 17, from Gilroy, California; Luis Rasmussen, 17, from Tucson, Arizona; Kevin Ourand, 22, from Rockville, Maryland; Kaylie Tallant, 18, from San Tan Valley, Arizona; Sophia Humphreys, 20, from Renton, Washington; and Logan Boehmer, 17, from Thornton, Colorado.

In the Northeast


Vincent Andrew Feliciano of Erie received a ten-year federal prison sentence for his role in distributing multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine, approximately 15,000 blue fentanyl pills, and methamphetamine in Pennsylvania between February and May 2022.

Rhode Island

Police in Woonsocket seized marijuana plants, two semi-automatic handguns, 12 kilograms of suspected fentanyl (including 7,000 to 10,000 pills), and a pill press.

In the South

South Carolina

Patricia Ann Hemphill of Rock Hill was sentenced to three years in federal prison for her role in a drug trafficking ring that distributed narcotics in Rock Hill, Greenville, Myrtle Beach, Charlotte, and Atlanta. The group made and sold more than a million counterfeit Roxicodone pills made with fentanyl.

Laurens Police warned that they had found fentanyl pills disguised as oxycodone—marked with a "V" on one side and "4812" on the other.

Fentanyl pills marked V/ 4812 (Laurens Police Department)


Sheriff’s deputies in Wheeler County confiscated four pounds of cocaine and four pounds of fentanyl M-30 pills that were thrown out of a vehicle window during a car chase.

Three Austin-area residents are facing federal charges for allegedly selling counterfeit oxycodone and other fake prescription pills made with fentanyl that led to the death of at least one person.

In the Midwest


A judge sentenced Jacob Magness of Bloomington to more than five years in federal prison for ordering fentanyl pills and fake Xanax on Snapchat and receiving them in the mail.


The Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force arrested three adults in connection to the non-fatal fentanyl poisonings of three Mankato teenagers who had taken counterfeit pills.


Rock Port resident Quentin W. Carder pleaded guilty in federal court to selling fake oxycodone pills made with fentanyl that killed an unnamed Atchison County man in June 2021.


A tip from the Hurricane Police Department led the Lawrence County Drug and Major Task Force to seize 2,500 counterfeit pills, as well as cash, guns, and other drugs from a house in Chesapeake.


Hayward resident Mary Ann Hammond pleaded guilty to first-degree reckless homicide by delivering counterfeit Percocet pills made with fentanyl to Lisa Quagon of Bass Lake in June 2020.

In the Mountain West


Customs and Border Protection agents at the Port of Nogales confiscated nearly 750,000 fentanyl pills during two vehicle searches in the last week of January.

Police in Bullhead City seized 1,500 fentanyl pills and over five grams of methamphetamine from an apartment on January 31.


Sammy Valdez received a five-year sentence in Boulder District Court for drug distribution, possession with intent to sell and manslaughter in the death of  Valetta “Lola” Kroeger to whom he sold a fatal fentanyl pill in March 2020.

The Western Colorado Drug Task Force seized an abandoned suitcase that contained 100,000 suspected fentanyl pills during the search of a passenger bus.

Police in Greeley seized 12,000 fake prescription pills believed to contain fentanyl and eight-and-a-half pounds of other drugs from a man who sought emergency treatment for an overdose.

Source: Mesa County Sheriff's Office


Ernestine Delafuente and Simon Martinez, of Idaho Falls, were sentenced to 309 months and 264 months, respectively, for possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. A December 2020 search of their storage unit in Idaho Falls turned up over 56 pounds of methamphetamine and approximately 12,000 fentanyl pills.


FBI agents seized over 5,000 fentanyl pills in Taylorsville while arresting a subject who allegedly sold fentanyl to an undercover agent.


Isaiah Wallace of Caspar received a 12-to-18-year state prison sentence for his role in a drug trafficking conspiracy. When Wallace and his girlfriend were arrested in March 2022, they were carrying $34,000, two stolen firearms, almost 3,000 fentanyl pills and more than 18 pounds of other drugs.

In the Pacific West


Fresno County Superior Court held a preliminary hearing in the case of a local woman who allegedly sold Jade Dreith the counterfeit pills made with fentanyl that killed her in January 2022. It’s the first fentanyl murder case to be tried in Fresco.

Cerritos resident Shaun Alan Rosa received a 22-and-a-half year prison sentence for narcotics and firearms offenses, including giving a victim fentanyl pills that killed him in June 2017. When police searched an apartment in San Pedro associated with Rosa’s drug operation, they found half a pound of fentanyl, more than eight pounds of Ecstasy, firearms and ammunition, digital scales and a pill press.

San Francisco Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested four and seized about 20 pounds of fentanyl in San Francisco and two locations in Oakland. Authorities also found a ghost gun, ammunition, a pill press and other pill-making supplies, and over $14,000.

The California Highway Patrol seized 50 pounds of fentanyl disguised as oxycodone (200,000 pills) in a gym bag during a traffic stop in Fresno County.


A Salem man is facing federal drug charges after police found him in possession of about 10,000 counterfeit M30 prescription pills, as well as fentanyl powder and heroin in July 2022.

Oregon State Police seized 13 pounds of narcotics and just over a pound of suspected counterfeit pills made of fentanyl during the search of an SUV near Klamath Falls in mid-January.


Laura Rodriguez-Moreno of Marysville, Washington received a ten-year sentence for selling pounds of methamphetamine and thousands of fentanyl pills in North Puget Sound communities. Rodriguez-Moreno used her Lake Stevens restaurant for drug trafficking and enlisted her teenage son to make drug deliveries. Her husband, who was one of five other people indicted in the scheme, has been missing since he received a ten-year sentence in October 2021.

Rodriguez-Moreno distributed fentanyl pills from her Lake Stevens restaurant (Google)