Investigation into ‘massive’ fentanyl ring leads to 23 arrests and 250,000 pills seized: officials
New details of the federal investigation into the “massive” fentanyl ring were revealed Monday as officials announced the arrest of 11 additional suspects — out of 23 total — in connection with the illegal sale and distribution of highly deadly synthetic opioids, which health officials say are… The main factor in the country’s overdose epidemic.
“Fentanyl is the greatest threat to Americans today,” Anne Milgram, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, told reporters at a news conference.
“It is devastating families across our country and killing Americans from all walks of life,” Milgram said. “It is the leading cause of death today in the United States among Americans ages 18 to 45.”
Authorities said their investigation began with the overdose death of 20-year-old mother Diamond Lynch.
Milgram said Lynch died almost instantly in Washington, D.C., in April 2021 after taking a pill that was made to look like the prescription pain medication oxycodone.
Officials described how a supplier caused Lynch to overdose in the past before eventually supplying her with the fatal counterfeit pills that killed her.
“Our investigation does not stop there,” said Matthew Graves, US Attorney for the District of Columbia. “We have uncovered leads that point to the existence of a massive fentanyl distribution network.”
“This was a conspiracy that flooded the District of Columbia with counterfeit pills containing fentanyl dangerously labeled, as is often the case, with ‘M-30’ imprints to resemble legally manufactured oxycodone,” Graves said.
Federal officials are working with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department to root out the drug network, which investigators said has a footprint in other parts of the country, including California, Maryland, Tennessee and Virginia.
Authorities are now detaining 23 defendants, Graves said, and have confiscated more than 40 pounds of fentanyl powder, nearly a quarter of a million pills and 30 firearms, including six machine guns.
Charges against the defendant include conspiracy to distribute fentanyl. Some of the suspects were also charged with conspiracy to commit international money laundering and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl
Milgram said the defendants pushed more than 1 million fentanyl pills into the area.
Wholesale prices ranged from 30 cents to $3 before the pill that killed Lynch sold for $30 and sparked a federal investigation two years ago, Milgram said.
Criminals have used some major social media sites to market fentanyl and connect buyers with suppliers, according to law enforcement. Authorities in this case said they were able to obtain search warrants to uncover communications that led to the conspiracy charges.
“Criminals make so much money from each sale that they don’t care if they kill Americans in the process,” Milgram said. “Especially when it comes to modern drug conspiracies like this, most of the people involved have never met in person.”