A former Mexican police officer who was residing in the United States illegally has been formally charged with trafficking fentanyl that could have killed more than 10 million people, the Department of Justice announced on July 26.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that’s 50 times more potent than heroin. The former cop, Assmir Contreras-Martinez, 30, of Tucson, Arizona, was busted in May 2019.
“This seizure alone has potentially saved millions of lives,” Clyde E. Shelley, Jr., DEA Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Field Division, said in a statement.
“Fentanyl is the number one threat causing our opioid epidemic in the United States,” he added.
A Texas DPS trooper had searched Contreras-Martinez’s vehicle and found 33 kilograms (73 pounds) of a white powdery substance that he thought was cocaine, but following tests, turned out to be fentanyl.
Contreras-Martinez later allegedly told authorities that he was paid $6,000 to smuggle the substance from California to Florida and it was the second such trip.
He added that he had been living in the United States illegally for seven months and that prior to that he had served as a municipal police officer in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico for eight years.
If Contreras-Martinez is convicted, he faces 30 years to life in federal prison, and may be deported after his sentence.
“Fentanyl is devastating communities across the country,” said U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox in the DOJ announcement.
“We cannot tolerate the trafficking of this deadly drug through north Texas—especially by those who are charged with protecting our communities, foreign or domestic.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas has a zero-tolerance policy on fentanyl and takes all cases involving the drug or its analogues to federal court no matter the quantity, because of its high potential to kill.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released provisional data earlier this month saying that fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were responsible in overdoses that killed almost 32,000 Americans last year.
Most Fentanyl Comes From China
Fentanyl belongs to a class of drugs known as opioids—drugs resembling properties of the opium poppy—which are used for pain relief. Commonly prescribed pharmaceutical opioids include oxycodone and morphine.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, has been used pharmaceutically since the 1960s, and it was commonly given to terminal cancer patients to help them deal with extreme pain. But in recent years, the drug has been used as a heroin substitute and is cheap to produce. Producers are now using it to spike batches of heroin for greater potency at a cheaper cost.
Fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine, and 50 times more powerful than heroin, according to the CDC; as little as two milligrams is considered a lethal dosage for most people.
According to a CDC report released March 21 (pdf), deaths from fentanyl in the United States have increased more than 1,000 percent from 2011 to 2016.
“The number of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased from 1,663 in 2011 to 18,335 in 2016,” the report stated.
In 2017, more than 28,000 synthetic opioid-related overdose deaths were recorded in the United States, and the majority of them were fentanyl-related, according to the CDC.
DEA agents say that much of the synthetic fentanyl is produced in China or is being made in amateur labs in the United States.
In particular, an extraordinary 68 percent of all the fentanyl in the world comes from China, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Significant amounts of fentanyl also come into the States from Mexico and other countries.
In August 2018, President Donald Trump urged the Senate to pass a measure to stop synthetic opioid drugs such as fentanyl from being transported into the United States via the U.S. Postal Service system.
The shipment of fentanyl from China to the United States is “almost a form of warfare,” Trump said in August 2018.
“In China, you have some pretty big companies sending that garbage and killing our people,” he said at the time.
The Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act (STOP Act) as mentioned by Trump was signed into law in October 2018.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in an October 2018 statement that “China is the number one problem when it comes to illegal fentanyl coming into the United States.”
Grassley noted that both the DEA and State Department cite China as the primary source for the supply of fentanyl and its underlying chemical substances, or “precursors.”
“Customers can purchase fentanyl products from Chinese laboratories online through express consignment or direct mail. Chinese exporters ship directly to individuals in the U.S., or to drug cartels in Mexico who then funnel illegal fentanyl over the southern border,” he noted.
The U.S. administration has repeatedly pressured the Chinese regime to clamp down on the production and distribution of fentanyl that has fueled the opioid crisis in the United States.
In December 2018, Chinese leader Xi Jinping promised Trump at the G-20 summit in Argentina that Beijing would crack down on the flow of all fentanyl-related substances.
But Chinese officials continue to deny that their country is the source of much of the fentanyl entering the United States.
On April 1, Beijing pledged that from May 1, it would expand the list of narcotics subject to state control to include more than 1,400 known fentanyl analogues, which have a slightly different chemical makeup but are all addictive and potentially deadly, as well as any new ones developed in the future.
U.S. experts, officials, and lawmakers, are skeptical about whether the Chinese regime will enforce the measures.
*see full story by Epoch Times