A pair of drug busts that took place in New York in August and September of this year netted a gain of enough drugs to kill 32 million people, authorities said after confiscating almost 195 pounds of fentanyl in a pair of bust that included a sting operation. Fentanyl is an opioid that is said to be 50 times stronger than heroin and is largely responsible for a number of fatal overdoses that have taken place in recent years.
Bridget G. Brennan, New York City's special narcotics prosecutor, noted that these busts came on the heels of overdose deaths reaching an all-time high in 2016 throughout New York's five boroughs. Four people were arrested in connection with these busts. Noted Brennan: "The sheer volume of fentanyl pouring into the city is shocking. It's not only killing a record number of people in New York City, but the city is used as a hub of regional distribution for a lethal substance that is taking thousands of lives throughout the Northeast."
The first bust happened on August 1, wherein police and federal agents were able to seize over 140 pounds of fentanyl. This is the largest quantity of fentanyl the city has ever seen in one bust. The authorities were able to seize the stash after witnessing two of the suspects receive what looked like a package of cocaine at first from an as-yet unknown trafficker in a New Jersey Walmart. After that exchange, the pair returned to an apartment building in Kew Gardens, where a DEA agent was waiting.
After this incident, authorities said they obtained a search warrant for the pair's apartment and uncovered nearly 100 packages of drugs in the pair's suitcases and a purse in a bedroom. 84 of these packages contained either pure fentanyl or heroin laced with fentanyl. Authorities said this bust contained enough doses to cause 32 million fatal overdoses.
Following this bust came the second, which occurred on September 5, wherein authorities seized over 50 pounds of fentanyl-laced heroin, along with another two pounds of uncut fentanyl, during a stop near Yankee Stadium. This bust took place after a group of detectives and DEA agents witnessed two men take a duffel bag from men inside a tractor trailer. They then drove with the drugs into New York City.
After the stop, police obtained a search warrant to open the duffel bag, which was locked. Inside, they found 25 1-kilogram bricks of the drugs. The four people who were arrested in these busts are each facing charges of criminal drug possession. The latter two men are also being charged with counts of conspiracy.
While fentanyl can be prescribed to treat severe pain, it is often abused and carries with it a high risk for addiction and dependence. If taken in higher doses, it can cause respiratory distress and even death, especially when it is combined with other substances, like alcohol, or if it is laced into heroin.