DEA Arrests Over 800 People, Seizes Nearly 1.8 Million Fentanyl-Laced Pills

By a Biometrica staffer

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has seized nearly 1.8 million fentanyl-laced pills, approximately 712 kilograms of fentanyl powder and arrested more than 800 individuals involved in the illicit drug trade in a two-month operation. Additionally, 4011 kilograms of methamphetamine, 653 kilograms of cocaine and 158 weapons, according to the Department of Justice.

Illicit fentanyl, a synthetic opioid found in most of the fake pills that were seized, is the primary driver of the recent increase in U.S. overdose deaths. The quantity of fentanyl seized was enough to cause at least 700,000 overdose deaths, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said.

“During the past eight weeks, DEA has targeted the criminal drug networks flooding the U.S. with deadly, fentanyl-laced fake pills,” said Milgram. “The fentanyl-laced fake pills seized by DEA could potentially kill more than 700,000 Americans. I urge the American public today to talk to their loved ones about the threats and dangers of fake pills and the simple fact that one pill can kill.”

In late September, the DEA issued a public safety alert, warning about the fake pills laced with fentanyl. This was the first public safety alert put out by the DEA in six years, NPR noted.

This alert doesn’t only apply to fake opioid medications. DEA officials said a knockoff version of the stimulant Adderall is being sold on the black market laced with methamphetamines. The counterfeit pills, designed to look like prescription medication, were actually illegally manufactured in labs and could contain deadly doses of fentanyl.

“Opioids were responsible for nearly three quarters of the more than 93,000 fatal drug overdoses in the United States in 2020,” said Deputy Attorney General Monaco. “The pervasiveness of these illicit drugs, and the fatal overdoses that too often result, is a problem that cuts across America from small towns to big cities and everything in between. One pill can kill. The department will continue to use all of the resources at its disposal to save lives, complementing strong enforcement efforts with public awareness and outreach campaigns, as well.”

Mexican criminal drug networks are mass-producing illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-laced fake pills, using chemicals sourced largely from China, and are distributing these pills through U.S. criminal networks, according to the Justice Department. 

These fake pills are designed to appear nearly identical to legitimate prescriptions such as Oxycontin®, Percocet®, Vicodin®, Adderall®, Xanax® and other medicines. Criminal drug networks are selling these pills through social media, e-commerce, the dark web and existing distribution networks. 

In 2020, drug-related deaths in the U. S. increased by 30%, Monaco was quoted as saying by CBS News. “These are shocking figures. Seizures like this alone will not solve this problem. We also need the public to understand the dangers posed by counterfeit pills.”

The investigation, which resulted in these seizures, began on Aug. 3 and even included the use of  an informant paid as much as $ 1.9m, the Chicago Sun Times reported.