In February, New York opioid trafficker, Robert Ian Thatcher, was sentenced to 23 years in prison for his involvement in the processing and distribution of a fentanyl analogue.
Two more members of the same trafficking ring have now also been sentenced to several years in federal prison.
Scott K. Fairbanks, 29, of Randolph, New York, was sentenced to seven and a half years in federal prison for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 100 grams or more of a fentanyl analogue.
The second member, Jesus Rivera, 26, of Elmira, New York, was sentenced to serve nine years in federal prison on similar charges by the same judge, Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett A. Harvey, who stated that the two men were mid-level distributors in the organization and operated in northern Pennsylvania and southern New York from 2015 to May 2017.
Main Faces Behind the Drug Ring
To date, 13 associates of this opioid production and distribution ring have been sentenced out of the 16 who have been convicted of narcotics offenses at the federal level.
The most notable members sentenced are the ringleaders, Robert Ian Thatcher, and Maximilian Sams.
Sams, 31, was recently sentenced to seventeen and a half years in prison for his role as a co-conspirator to Thatcher.
The two men ran the day to day operations and were mainly in-charge of sourcing the raw materials, U-47700 and furanyl fentanyl, from China through the dark web.
Multiple addresses and identities were used to obscure their identity from law enforcement.
Their primary product was counterfeit Percocet pills, made using large pill presses and mechanical tableting machines.
Blue food coloring was additionally used to give the pill an authentic look.
All this took place at residential addresses in New York and Pennsylvania.
After manufacturing, the pills would then be distributed in large quantities to other associates, who would distribute to their street-level customers.
More Mid-Level Associates Convicted
Other members of the organisation sentenced include Anthony J. Prettyman, 28, and Dwayne Banks, 30.
Both mid-level dealers from Elmira, New York, they were sentenced to 125 months and 108 months respectively for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and the distribution of 100 grams or more of a fentanyl analogue.
The Iredell County Sheriff’s Office arrested Prettyman after it was discovered he was transporting 5,300 pills in the bottom of a false paint can.
Likewise, other mid-level dealers were also sentenced. Robert J. Elford and Deven Hill were sentenced to serve 121 months and 37 months in prison respectively, while an additional four defendants were also convicted.
They include Amber Bates, Thatcher’s girlfriend, who received five years’ probation including home detention for six months.
She was sentenced on a charge of conspiracy to launder money.
Isaiah McLaurin was sentenced to 57 months, Edward Barrett received 90 months and Dusty Pemberton 70 months.
The organisation’s operations attracted the attention of authorities back in 2017 after a series of people had overdosed from their pills.
Unfortunately, some to these overdoses lead to deaths. Court records show that a 25-year-old male and a 21-year-old female died after taking the pills.
The Mucky World of Counterfeit Opioid Pills
Counterfeit drugs, especially fake prescriptions pills and designer drugs, are rapidly becoming a concern for authorities due to the dangers they pose.
Designer or synthetic drugs like MDMA, also known as psychoactive substances (NPSs), are increasing in popularity as a replacement for traditional illicit drugs like cocaine.
Consumers are shifting to various drugs depending on their preferences as well as their culture and the country they reside in.
In addition, more stringent laws governing the distribution of prescription drugs have seen the opioid market grow, becoming more dynamic and sophisticated in the way the drugs are produced and distributed.
Producers of these drugs are moving closer and closer to their target markets and consumers to the point that some are setting up secret labs in residential homes.
Authorities have discovered that ingredients used in most of these drugs are lethal to the point of causing organ failure.
For instance, fake prescription painkillers such as Percocet, are being made using materials such as Fentanyl and U-47700, both synthetic opioids and more deadly than heroin.
Law enforcement agencies like the DEA have stated that one kilogram of fentanyl is much cheaper than heroin and can be used to manufacture one million fake pills of oxycodone or Percocet.
In return, the manufacturer nets around $10 to 20 million in revenue.
Critics attribute this rise to the fact that there are fewer authentic painkillers available due to strict prescription limits amidst the worsening opioid crisis.
One by one, dealers are seizing the opportunity by meeting demand with pills filled with fentanyl analogues and other substances.
Others have argued that the rise is as a result of users believing that prescription drugs are safe since they are manufactured in a tightly regulated industry.
Regrettably, such belief obscures them to the fact that they may be ingesting a cocktail of lethal substances.
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