A New York darknet dealer and his co-conspirators, who were arrested late last year and later pleaded guilty to the charges brought up against them, have now received their respective sentences in court.
Robert Ian Thatcher, 31, of Elmira, New York received a 23 year prison sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, U-47700 and at least 100 grams of furanyl fentanyl.
The prosecutor handling the case said that Thatcher and his accomplice, Maximillian Sams, managed the day-to-day activities of their drug-dealing enterprise which involved large-scale manufacturing and trafficking of opioids in the Southern Tier of New York and northern Pennsylvania.
Their operation ran from 2015 to May of 2017.
The two individuals imported large quantities of U-47700 and furanyl fentanyl from their sources in China.
They made use of the dark web to make contact with their suppliers. In order to receive their packages safely, they used numerous people and addresses, thus avoiding law enforcement’s attention.
To aid them in the large scale production of the opioid pills, Thatcher and Sams procured mechanical tableting machines, lactose magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose and powdered food coloring.
The pills were blue in color and were made to look like authentic Percocet pills.
Because Thatcher and Sams are not professionals in the field of chemistry, they ended up producing substandard drugs in their quest to make a quick buck.
As a result, at least two individuals died and another person is said to have overdosed on more than one occasion after ingesting the pills.
Production and Distribution
According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, Thatcher and Sams used two residences to process and manufacture the drugs—one residence based in New York and the other in Pennsylvania.
After production, the two individuals would distribute the pills in large quantities to their fellow co-conspirators, who included Jesus Rivera, Dwayne Banks, Anthony Prettyman and Terrance Washington.
The co-conspirators would then sell them on the streets of Elmira, New York.
Law Enforcement Involvement
On October 2016, Sams used Prettyman to transport 5,300 pills that they had manufactured for distribution.
On the same day, law enforcement from Iredell County, North Carolina conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle used by Prettyman.
The police ended up finding and seizing the drugs being transported and arrested Prettyman for possession.
In 2017, Thatcher bought furanyl fentanyl over the dark web and arranged for it to be sent to another one of his co-conspirators, Carlito Rios.
While the supply was in transit on March 13, 2017, law enforcement from the Customs and Border Protection examined the package.
They found it to be containing 249 grams of furanyl fentanyl which was to be used in the production of the supply.
These key findings enabled the police to build a solid case against the defendants and as a result most of them, including Thatcher, ended up pleading guilty to the charges brought up against them.
Dangers of Furanyl Fentanyl
Furanyl fentanyl is an opioid analgesic. It is a derivative of fentanyl that is a structural analog of it. It has been used as a designer drug and has a fifth of the potency of fentanyl.
It has two main characteristics which make it prone to abuse:
- High liposolubility which allows fast absorption into the blood.
- It binds to µ-opioid receptors with considerably higher affinity than morphine.
The side effects of furanyl fentanyl are the same to those of fentanyl and its other analogs. They include itching, nausea and respiratory depression. Serious respiratory depression can cause death.
According to the Department of Justice, at least two people have died as result of ingesting the drugs linked to Thatcher and Sams’ operation.
U-47700 is a synthetic opioid first manufactured in the 1970s by Michigan-based pharmaceutical company Upjohn.
Like fentanyl, U-47700 is produced in large quantities in China and Eastern Europe, thus drug dealers around the world are buying these drugs from those parts of the world over the dark web.
It is about eight times stronger than morphine.
U-47700 can be found in powder or in liquid form. It frequently has the appearance of other drugs and is therefore difficult to detect among other known opioids.
Its effects when abused are similar to those of other opioids—itching, nausea and respiratory depression.
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