DEA seizes 3 kilograms of fentanyl and over $65,000 in cash in L.A.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration seized 3 kilograms of fentanyl powder and more than $65,000 in cash late last month in Los Angeles, the latest in a series of large-quantity busts in the region, agency officials said Tuesday.
That amount could have produced up to 250,000 pills, each with about 2 milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a lethal dose, the agency said.
“In this case, 3 kilograms of fentanyl powder is quite a bit, and that could make a large number of pills,” said Bill Bodner, special agent in charge of the DEA’s Los Angeles office.
The seizure was not an outlier, Bodner said, as the agency has been finding more fentanyl in larger quantities during its operations.
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“The largest one we’ve had in the past two months is 65 kilos of fentanyl powder, which is tremendous,” he said. Bodner said he could not share many details about the seizure as it is part of an ongoing case.
The seizure of the 3 kilograms in late February is “more along the lines of what is average now,” Bodner said.
“One kilo, 3 kilos, 5 kilos, that’s a pretty common amount of fentanyl to be trafficked now,” he said. “In 2016 or 2017, you would really never see that quantity of fentanyl in one place.”
In 2021, the DEA’s Los Angeles office seized more than 3 million counterfeit prescription pills made up of only fentanyl, more than double the amount seized in 2020, Bodner said.
The increased volume of pills seized is the result of a number of factors, Bodner said, including a stepped-up focus by the DEA on manufactured drugs such as fentanyl and methamphetamine and a surge in supply and demand.
“For probably the past eight or nine months, we’ve tried to have a laser focus on fentanyl because that’s where the most obvious harm is coming to the community,” Bodner said.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be up to 100 times as powerful as morphine, is believed to have driven overdose deaths to a record high of over 100,000 for the yearlong period that ended in April 2021, a surge of nearly 30% from the previous year.
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The Greater Los Angeles area has served as a major distribution hub for fentanyl, Bodner said, as traffickers make their way from Mexico, packaging the drug for transportation across the country. The DEA identifies the wholesalers who receive shipments in Los Angeles and seizes the drugs at a stash location such as a house or storage unit, or intercepts them during a transaction or transportation.
Cartels have increasingly emphasized production of fentanyl and methamphetamine over drugs such as heroin and cocaine, which require vast swaths of land and workers to harvest and process plants. Synthetic drugs are easier and cheaper to produce in larger quantities.
“With fentanyl, they can vertically integrate, and it’s easy for them to manufacture mass quantities of the drug just by sourcing precursor chemicals from China and India,” Bodner said.
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