One million pills containing fentanyl, valued at as much as $20 million, were seized in a raid this month near Los Angeles, law enforcement’s largest bust of its kind in California.
The seizure of fake pills happened July 5 at an Inglewood residence identified during an investigation of drug trafficking linked to the international Sinaloa Cartel, the Drug Enforcement Administration said in a statement. Agents served a search warrant at the home and found the pills, which were intended for retail distribution, the DEA said.
“This massive seizure disrupted the flow of dangerous amounts of fentanyl into our streets and probably saved many lives,” DEA special agent Bill Bodner said in the statement. “A staggering number of teens and young adults are unaware that they are ingesting fentanyl in these fake pills and are being poisoned.”
The investigation by Los Angeles and New York DEA agents, along with the Hawthorne (California) Police Department, is ongoing and has already uncovered a network of Southern California drug couriers and stash house managers who distribute drugs, the DEA said.
The Los Angeles-area bust – an estimated $15 million to $20 million in street value – came just days after Mexican authorities seized more than a half a ton of fentanyl in the state of Sinaloa. Valued at about $230 million, it was the largest fentanyl drug bust in the country’s history.
Fentanyl, which is a synthetic opiate, is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It’s less expensive than other opioids and is mixed into other drugs and made into pills that look like oxycodone, Xanax or Adderall. American deaths from fentanyl increased 23% to account for two-thirds of overdoses last year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even before this bust, Los Angeles DEA agents had seized about 1.5 million fentanyl pills in the first four months of 2022, up 64% over the same period last year, the agency said.
Mexican “transnational criminal organizations” have been producing more fentanyl than before and smuggling it across the U.S. border, the DEA said in a report in 2020. Mexico and China are the primary sources of fentanyl trafficked directly into the United States, the report says.
Contributing: Celina Tabor, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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