Nearly 2 million fentanyl-laced fake pills were seized during a two-month nationwide investigation leading to 810 arrests, Drug Enforcement Administration officials said.
The 1.8 million fake pills containing the deadly synthetic opioid could have potentially killed more than 700,000 people, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram told reporters in Washington while announcing the historic seizure Thursday.
Investigators had targeted criminal drug networks flooding the US with fentanyl-laced pills over the past eight weeks, culminating with the arrest of the hundreds of drug traffickers in cities and rural communities across the country.
“I urge the American public today to talk to their loved ones about the threats and dangers of fake pills and the simple fact that one pill can kill,” Milgram said.
The counterfeit pills were designed to appear almost identical to prescribed medicines to treat moderate to severe pain like Oxycontin and Percocet or Adderall and Xanax, which is generally used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, DEA officials said.
Drug networks in Mexico are producing the fake pills on a massive scale, using chemicals largely obtained from China before distributing them across the US. Some of the bogus pills are being hawked online, including on social media sites, according to the DEA.
“These fake pills are more lethal than ever,” DEA officials said in a statement. “DEA laboratory testing reveals that today, four out of 10 fentanyl-laced fake pills contain a potentially lethal dose.”
The number of fake pills containing fentanyl identified by the DEA has jumped nearly 430 percent since 2019 — and illicit fentanyl has been responsible for nearly three-quarters of the more than 93,000-plus fatal drug overdoses in the US last year, according to Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.
“The pervasiveness of these illicit drugs, and the fatal overdoses that too often result, is a problem that cuts across America from small towns to big cities and everything in between,” Monaco told reporters. “One pill can kill.”
The DEA also seized more than 1,500 pounds of fentanyl powder — or enough to make tens of millions of additional pills. Some 158 weapons believed to have been tied to violence or overdose deaths were also recovered along with more than 8,800 pounds of methamphetamine and 1,400 pounds of cocaine.
Fentanyl, which is up to 100 times stronger than morphine, is known on the street by nicknames like “China Girl,” “Dance Fever” and “Goodfellas,” according to the DEA. It’s often added to heroin to increase its potency or is disguised as a highly potent form of the highly addictive opioid.
Actor Michael K. Williams, best known for his role as Omar Little on “The Wire,” was found dead in his Brooklyn penthouse on Sept. 6. His cause of death was later revealed as acute intoxication from a deadly mix of fentanyl, p-fluorofentanyl, heroin and cocaine, a spokeswoman for New York’s medical examiner said last month.
Sources told The Post Williams, 54, was found dead down in a dining room with what appeared to heroin on a kitchen table. The five-time Emmy nominee’s death was ruled accidental.