Two drug dealers have been jailed for possessing enough of the synthetic opioid fentanyl to kill 18 million people.
Jesus Carrillo-Pineda and Daniel Vasquez were caught with 45kg of the drug, a super-strength opioid that is many times more potent than heroin.
Dealers mix fentanyl into cocaine or heroin, or use it to create fake painkiller pills – but due to its ability to kill even in tiny amounts addicts are playing “Russian roulette” every time they consume it, authorities said.
Carrillo-Pineda, of Philadelphia, and Vasquez, from Somerton in Arizona, were jailed for 10 and six years respectively after police seized their stockpile during two raids in New Jersey, in the state’s largest ever fentanyl bust.
The pair were caught in a car park in North Bergen, after detectives watched them transfer 40kg of the fentanyl from one vehicle to another.
The remaining 5kg was seized the following day in Willingboro along with almost 40kg of heroin and some methamphetamine.
State attorney general Gurbir Grewal said: “Many lives were undoubtedly saved as a result of this record-setting fentanyl seizure.
“The 100lbs of fentanyl trafficked into our state by these drug dealers could have generated enough lethal doses to kill the entire populations of New Jersey and New York City combined.”
That means some 18 million people, he said.
Last week Carrillo-Pineda, 31, was jailed for 10 years for possessing heroin with intent to distribute, and a further seven years, to run concurrently, for possessing fentanyl with intent to distribute.
Vasquez, 28, was jailed for six years for possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute. Both men pleaded guilty in December following their arrests in June.
In 2015, fentanyl overdoses killed 417 people in New Jersey, and more than 800 in 2016, Mr Grewal’s office said. The drug is so potent that paramedics and police officers have suffered its effects while treating overdose victims, a statement added.
On Monday Mr Sessions said the Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement team would more than double the FBI‘s investment in investigating online opioid trafficking.
Donald Trump also charged his new health secretary, Alex Azar, with being “very tough” on doctors and drug companies over the prescription of opioid-based prescription drugs.
Last autumn the Republican declared the crisis a public health emergency, saying that “we can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic”.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, two-thirds of overdose deaths involve an opioid, with an average of 115 people dying per day.
The agency’s website says: “We now know that overdoses from prescription opioids are a driving factor in the 16-year increase in opioid overdose deaths.
“The amount of prescription opioids sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors’ offices nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, yet there had not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans reported.
“Deaths from prescription opioids – drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone – have more than quadrupled since 1999.”
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies