May 15, 2023: Families rallied outside Snap HQ to demand accountability for fatal Snapchat pill sales

This week: Families across the country observed Fentanyl Awareness Day on May 9th. The FDA warned about hidden pharmaceuticals in arthritis “supplements.” Authorities reported fake medicine in Ireland, India and Australia. Additional news involved counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in 17 states.

National News

Grieving parents speak about fentanyl pills. The FDA warns about arthritis supplements with hidden pharmaceuticals.

On May 13th, Amy Neville and other parent advocates held a fourth protest at Snap, Inc.’s headquarters in Santa Monica, California, demanding that the corporation take accountability for dangers to minors on Snapchat, particularly dealers using the platform to sell fatal drugs. Neville founded the Alexander Neville Foundation after her 14-year-old son Alex died of fentanyl poisoning from a counterfeit pill he purchased via Snapchat in 2020. Learn more about social media and the fake pill crisis.

The protest capped off a week of advocacy for Fentanyl Awareness Day, which was May 9th. Families in Los Gatos and Pasadena, California; Frisco, Colorado; Lewiston, Idaho; Glen Ellyn, Illinois; Wichita, Kansas; Lafayette, Louisiana; Westchester County, New York; Hixson, Tennessee; Austin, Buda, Cypress, Fort Worth, Plano, Selma and Wichita Falls,Texas; Cedarburg and Waunakee, Wisconsin and elsewhere spoke about the dangers of fentanyl and about loved ones who died after taking counterfeit pills.

Family advocate Amy Neville lost her son Alex in 2020 to a fake pill from a Snapchat drug dealer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated a list of arthritis supplements that were discovered to have prescription ingredients, most recently corticosteroids and a prescription-only NSAID that could cause heart attack, stroke, and serious gastrointestinal damage.

International News

Northern Ireland joins countries reporting semaglutide counterfeits. Indian authorities stop a fake drug ring. Australia warns about fake Xanax.

Northern Ireland’s Department of Health warned about falsified injectable weight loss pens that contained fake medicine. The incident is another in a string involving black market or counterfeit semaglutide products.

Authorities in the Indian state of Haryana arrested four and shut down an international drug counterfeiting ring selling a fake version of Defitelio, an injectable bone marrow transplant drug.

The health authority in the Australian state of Queensland warned that counterfeit Xanax pills that contained a synthetic opioid called protonitazene had been found in circulation and may have caused two deaths.

The WHO warned about counterfeit Defitelio in April 2023. (WHO, Medical Product Alert N°3/2023)


Sentencings, pleas and indictments in nine states.

Colorado Springs, Colorado resident Alexis Wilkins received a 20-year federal prison sentence for distribution of fentanyl resulting in death. Wilkins sold two high school students fake Percocet pills made with fentanyl that killed a third high school student in December 2021.

Reza Hashemi of Alexandria, Virginia was sentenced in federal court to 15 years in prison for distributing fentanyl that resulted in death. Hashemi sold counterfeit pills made of fentanyl and etizolam that killed a 22-year-old Vienna man in October 2020 and went on to sell fentanyl powder that killed a Clifton woman the following May.

Javyn Johnson received a 15-year prison sentence for fentanyl distribution after selling 29-year-old mother of two Chanelle Pratt of Wichita, Kansas the fentanyl pill disguised as Percocet that killed her in August 2019.

Carlos Alberto Castro-Ruiz of Phoenix, Arizona, pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and methamphetamine. Castro-Ruiz is one of three men who delivered approximately 420,000 fentanyl pills and approximately 25 pounds of methamphetamine to undercover officers on September 22, 2022. All of the men are scheduled for sentencing in July 2023.

The U.S. attorney for the Central District of California arrested 13 people suspected of selling fentanyl-laced drugs that caused at least 12 fatal overdoses in southern California, including a Tarzana resident alleged to have sold fake Percocet pills that killed a 17-year-old girl and an 18-year-old boy who bought them at a mall in Santa Clarita.

An Unalaska, Alaska resident was charged with manslaughter for allegedly dealing the fentanyl pills that caused the fatal drug overdose of a Boise, Idaho resident who was part of a crew whose boat docked in Unalaska in January 2023.

People were also convicted or sentenced in drug trafficking cases involving counterfeit pills made with fentanyl, methamphetamine or etizolam in Kona, Hawaii; Boston, Massachusetts; Chesapeake and Norton, Virginia; and Seattle, Washington.

Fentanyl poisonings, 2020-2022 (DEA Los Angeles, May 2023)


CBP seizes more illegally imported injectables. Pill seizures in 11 states.

Over the last two weeks, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Cincinnati seized 78 shipments of unapproved cosmetic treatments such as Botox, Juvéderm, and other fillers on their way from Bulgaria, Spain, China, Hong Kong, and Korea to destinations in Oregon, South Carolina, New York, Florida and elsewhere. Unregulated injectable treatments may contain unsafe ingredients that can harm patients.

Some of the 80,000 fentanyl pills seized in Clackamas County, Oregon. (U.S. District Court, Oregon)

Oregon State Police and Homeland Security Investigations announced the seizure of 130,000 fentanyl pills, weighing over 33 pounds during a traffic stop in March 2023.

Sheriff’s deputies in Mesa County, Colorado seized over 100,000 fentanyl pills and 75 pounds of methamphetamine during a traffic stop near De Beque. This week also saw the seizure of more than 7,000 more pills elsewhere in Mesa County.

Law enforcement in Racine, Wisconsin intercepted a package of more than 20,000 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl on their way from Phoenix, Arizona to an address in Racine, Wisconsin.

A multi-state drug trafficking investigation led to the seizure of approximately 14,000 fentanyl pills and the arrest of a California man in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Law enforcement in Atlanta, Georgia seized more than 10,000 fentanyl pills and hundreds of pounds of other drugs during 18 raids focused on a gang called the Paper Gang Family.

There were also counterfeit pill seizures in Juneau, Alaska; Ojai, California; Pocatello and Priest River, Idaho; Adams County, Mississippi; Bismarck, North Dakota; and Blacksburg and Gaffney, South Carolina.