BATH, NY (WETM) – There is an increase of counterfeit pills laced with deadly fentanyl being sold online according, to the Steuben County Sheriff Jim Allard and the Steuben Prevention Coalition Opioid Committee (SPCOC).
“Could there be a pill mill or a pill dealer in your neighborhood?” asked Connie Terry, SPCOC program coordinator. “Absolutely. During 2019, an investigation of a large-scale counterfeit pill manufacturing and drug trafficking organization in the Twin Tiers resulted in 13 arrests and convictions with the ringleader receiving a 23-year Federal Prison sentence. There’s no reason to believe it all went away.”
In 2019, Robert Ian Thatcher, 31, of Elmira, N.Y., was sentenced to serve 23 years in prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute, U-47700 and 100 grams or more of furanyl fentanyl.
At least two overdoses have been linked to Thatcher’s operation. They died after ingesting the blue pills containing furanyl fentanyl and U-47700. Also, at least one individual identified as J.M. overdosed on more than one occasion after using the blue pills but survived after being treated by first responders with Narcan.
Thatcher purchased the tools to make the opioids on eBay, according to a press release from the Sheriff’s department. The release continued to state that, Thatcher and his co-defendant, Maximillian Sams purchased a bulk of the furanyl fentanyl and U-47700 from Chinese suppliers.
Because federal penalties are more severe, the county Sheriff’s department worked alongside federal Drug Enforcement Administration investigations, according to the release.
“Fake pills that look identical to the prescription pharmaceuticals, such as the opioid Hydrocodone, the stimulant Adderall, and the sedative Xanax, now contain fentanyl and are readily available online and through the social media outlets,” Terry said.
“Fentanyl is an illegal and uncontrolled synthetic opioid 100 times more potent than morphine, with a lethal dose amounting to 2 milligrams, the equivalent to a few grains of sand,” she said.
In 2019, the DEA found the 27 percent of a nationwide sampling of tablets contained “potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.”
“Parents need to be vigilant about their teenager’s cyber lives,” Allard said. “There are so many pitfalls for young impressionable youth, especially now when the pandemic has isolated them and restricted so many of their normal activities. Friendships can develop quickly with no guarantee the other friend is not a predator.”
According to the press release, Terry said parents need to be open about the dangers and engage their teens in frank discussions about the dangers of online drugs, not just common street drugs.
“Teenagers tend to think prescription drugs are safer,” she said. “Not so. Check your teen’s use of social media apps often and warn them about the potential dangers of fake pills. Stay involved in your child’s life even when they resist.”