CLEVELAND – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Detroit Division today announced the results of an enforcement operation that resulted in significant fentanyl seizures across Ohio.
As part of the nationwide “One Pill Can Kill” initiative in Ohio, the DEA and its law enforcement partners seized more than 65 kilograms of fentanyl powder and 87,000 fentanyl-laced pills during the period of May 23, 2022, through Sept. 8, 2022 – enough to provide 4,766,788 deadly dosages.
Nationwide, more than 10.2 million fentanyl pills and approximately 980 pounds of fentanyl powder were seized during the same period. The amount of fentanyl taken off the streets during this surge is equivalent to more than 36 million lethal doses. Additionally, 338 weapons were seized, including rifles, shotguns, pistols, and hand grenades.
“Across the country and particularly here, in Northern Ohio, we have witnessed, firsthand, the proliferation of fentanyl and the devastating effects it has had on our neighbors and loved ones,” said First Assistant United States Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler. “Fighting back against drug traffickers who flood our streets with this deadly narcotic – particularly in pill form – is an enduring and relentless battle, but we must continue to fight.”
“Fentanyl in pill form is a deliberate attempt by drug cartels to make illicit drug use more appealing to Americans,” said DEA Detroit Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene. “Fake pills are especially concerning because of the appeal they can have to an unsuspecting person. One may believe they are taking a legitimate pharmacy-grade pill but far too often, that isn’t the case. Fake prescription pills bought on the street are made in clandestine labs, primarily in Mexico, from chemicals sourced from China, and contain a lethal dose of fentanyl.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio, the DEA and other law enforcement partners have led investigations and prosecutions of numerous individuals charged with or convicted of fentanyl trafficking recently, including:
United States v. Zamora et al (3:22-cr-00224-JGC)
In August 2021, authorities in Summit County received information that an ATV in Copley, Ohio, was scheduled to be transported out of state and was fitted to conceal 2.2 kilograms of pressed fentanyl pills meant to look like oxycodone originating from a cartel in Mexico. Authorities later arrested and charged Omar Zamora and Nathaniel Dabney in connection with the incident. Zamora and Dabney both pleaded guilty to their roles in the incident and were sentenced to prison.
United States v. Wall et al (1:22-cr-00280-SL)
In January 2022, postal inspectors in Arizona seized a package that was found to contain approximately 2.2 kilograms of fentanyl pills. After an investigation into the origins of the package, authorities identified Dayareon Crofton, Floyd Head and Cortez West as participants in an alleged drug trafficking conspiracy that shipped and couriered large quantities of fentanyl pills to Derrean Wall in Cleveland. Over the course of the next three months, Crofton, Head, and West were arrested, each carrying approximately 2 kilograms of fentanyl pills. All three were arrested while en route to Cleveland, Ohio. This case remains ongoing.
United States v. Brown et al (3:22-cr-00224-JGC)
In March 2022, federal authorities seized a parcel in the mail that was later found to contain approximately 7,833 fentanyl pills disguised to look like oxycodone. An investigation identified Cody Brown, Jennifer Murphy, and Damion Yoshimoto in Tiffin, Ohio, as part of a conspiracy that allegedly shipped fentanyl pills from out of state to Tiffin. Brown, Murphy and Yoshimoto were later arrested and charged in an indictment. This case remains ongoing.
United States v. Larrie Ladell Campbell (1:22-CR-268-JRA)
In May 2022, law enforcement obtained a parcel shipped in the U.S. mail from Arizona to Cleveland that was found to contain over 2 kilograms of fentanyl pills. An investigation determined that Larrie Ladell Campbell had mailed the parcel from Arizona and then traveled to Cleveland to try and retrieve it. Campbell pleaded guilty to federal charges in July 2022 and is awaiting sentencing.
United States of America v. Watkins (3:22-cr-00349-JGC)
In November 2020, Martez Watkins fled to Indiana after local drug trafficking charges were filed in Toledo, Ohio. While there, it is alleged that Watkins continued to send fentanyl pills to the Northern District of Ohio through his drug trafficking operation. Authorities later tracked Watkins down, and he was arrested in May 2022 on federal drug trafficking charges. During the Watkin’s residence, it is alleged that authorities found 5,362 pills, which were later determined to contain a combination of acetaminophen and fentanyl and meta-fluoro 4-ANPP and para-fluorofentanyl, more than $12,000 cash, a firearm, and drug packaging materials. This case remains ongoing.
In 2021, a record number of Americans – 107,622 – died from drug poisoning or overdose. Sixty-six percent of those deaths can be attributed to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
Drug traffickers have expanded their inventory to sell fentanyl in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes. Rainbow fentanyl was first reported to DEA in February 2022, and it has now been seized in 21 states.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin. Just two milligrams of fentanyl, or the amount that could fit on the tip of a pencil, is considered a potentially lethal dose.
As part of the DEA’s ongoing efforts to educate the public and encourage parents and caregivers to talk to teens and young adults about the dangers of fake pills and illicit drugs, DEA has also created a new resource, “What Every Parent and Caregiver Needs to Know About Fake Pills.”