May 30, 2023: North Carolina raises penalties for making counterfeit controlled pills

This week: Law enforcement seized pill presses in Delaware and Louisiana. North Carolina makes using a pill press to make counterfeit controlled pills a felony. Regulators in Canada and Mexico flagged black market or counterfeit antibiotics, contraceptives and other medicines. Additional news involving counterfeit or illegally imported pills in 22 states.

National News

This May 2023 map shows where pill presses have been seized in the U.S. See the most recent data, with individual incidents from this year (marked with red triangles) on our Pill Press page.

States raise penalties for the illegal use of pill presses. Grieving families continue to educate about fake pills.

On May 19, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed SB206, the Stop Counterfeit Pills Act,  which makes it a felony to intentionally use a pill press to make counterfeit controlled substances in the states. FloridaMississippi and Washington have already enacted similar laws and legislation stepping up regulation of and penalties for the misuse of pill presses is being considered in Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and New York.

Family advocates in California, Colorado, Missouri, Virginia and Vancouver, Canada spoke about the dangers of fentanyl and about loved ones who died after taking counterfeit pills.

International News

Canadian and Mexican regulators warn about unapproved and counterfeit drugs.

​​Health Canada warned that unauthorized amoxicillin capsules had been found for sale at a grocery store in Ottawa, Ontario.

Mexican regulators issued warnings about substandard and fake medical products, including counterfeit Botox; a fake version of Noristerat, a contraceptive injection, that contains no active ingredient; and Refresh and Optive eye drops which cannot be presumed to be sanitary because they lack lot numbers.

Health Canada warned about unauthorized amoxicillin capsules that it seized from a grocer in Ottawa, Ontario.


Another fake Botox case settled. Prosecutions regarding counterfeit pills made of methamphetamine, fentanyl, heroin and bromazolam in 12 states.

Grand Rapids, Michigan physician Derek Lado and Elite Medical Spine & Musculoskeletal Center, agreed to pay $135,000 to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by billing Medicare for foreign, unapproved Botox. Lado began injecting his patients with illegally imported Botox in August 2018 and continued to use the unapproved drugs even after officials informed him that the practice was illegal.

Burnsville, Minnesota resident Jamal Adan was sentenced to just over five years in prison for selling counterfeit Percocet pills that killed a 16-year-old. Hunter Carlson died of fentanyl poisoning after taking half of one of the pills in January 2021.

Another Minnesota man, Bradley James Westphal of Olivia, received the same sentence for sharing fake Percocet pills with Connie Haven, who suffered fatal fentanyl poisoning in July 2021. Westphal delayed calling 911 to remove the evidence of drugs and contact other people as Haven died.

Alexander Declan Bell Wilson of Rolling Hills, California, was convicted at trial of providing 15-year-old Nathan Young-Nichols with the counterfeit oxycodone pills that killed him in May 2020.

Robert Habtemariam of Dallas, Texas received a 14-year sentence for drug charges related to providing the fake oxycodone pills made with fentanyl that killed someone in 2021.

Johanny Torres-Rojas of Worcester, Massachusetts received a 57-month prison sentence for distributing almost a kilogram of methamphetamine pills, fentanyl pills and pills containing heroin.

People were also convicted or sentenced in drug trafficking cases involving counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in Biloxi and Picayune, Mississippi; Great Falls, Montana; Las Vegas, Nevada; Sequoyah County, Oklahoma; and Kennewick, Washington.

People were charged with selling counterfeit pills made with fentanyl that led to illness or fatalities in Dublin, California; Moab, Utah; and Ripley, West Virginia. An additional case in East Islip, New York involved fake Xanax that contained bromazolam, a benzodiazepine that Center for Forensic Science Research and Education warned about in June 2022.

Center for Forensic Science Research and Education warned about bromazolam in June 2022.


Pill press seizures in Delaware and Louisiana. Illegally imported medicines seized in California. Millions more counterfeit pills seized in 13 states.

Gray building with a blue awning that once housed a day care center

Court papers allege that drug traffickers in New Castle, Delaware used this former daycare building to manufacture fentanyl pills.

Investigators in Delaware raided seven properties in New Castle and Kent Counties, including an out of service daycare center, and seized two pill presses, more than ten kilograms of suspected fentanyl, as well as cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana and xylazine.

Illinois State Police seized 500,000 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl during a drug bust on Interstate 57 in the northeastern part of the state.

Law enforcement in Washington state announced the seizure of 500,000 fentanyl pills and almost 13 kilograms of methamphetamine and cocaine during the search of an apartment in Everett on May 10.

U.S. Border Patrol agents at the Pine Valley checkpoint in California discovered 112 pounds of fentanyl pills concealed inside the roof of a vehicle.

In Colorado, the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office concluded Operation Blue Steal, a four-month investigation that included the seizure of 30 pounds of fentanyl, and about 124,000 fentanyl pills.

Police officers in Fort Bragg, California seized 12,000 counterfeit pharmaceutical pills they suspect are counterfeit, including Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien, and Adderall, from a resident who was allegedly buying them online and reselling them.

Agents found fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and a pill press during the search of four properties in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

There were also counterfeit pill seizures in Decatur and Florence, Alabama; Little Rock, Arkansas; El Centro, California; Muncie, Indiana; Atchison, Kansas; Faribault, Minnesota; Jefferson City, Missouri; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Snohomish, Washington and CheyenneLaramie and Rock Springs, Wyoming.