For the second week in a rowofficials announced the largest “rainbow fentanyl” bust in New York history — a sign, they warn, that the drug’s prevalence is growing in the state and that traffickers are stepping up their efforts to market the dangerous substance to the public.
Two men, Erickson Lorenzo and Jefry Rodriguez-Pichardo, face drug and weapons charges for the massive drug bust in the Bronx on Oct. 7, Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan announced Wednesday. The pair were arraigned Saturday, and were scheduled to appear again in court on Wednesday.
Law enforcement searched the apartment on Bronx Boulevard early Friday morning, finding Lorenzo inside a third-floor bedroom and Rodriguez-Pichardo was in another bedroom, hanging out of a windowsill with no fire escape, according to prosecutors.
Inside the apartment in the Wakefield section was a variety of different packaging and forms of fentanyllaw enforcement said. About 300,000 multicolored fentanyl pills, commonly referred to as rainbow fentanyl, were found inside two closets and in Lorenzo’s bedroom.
Most of the pills were sorted by color inside large plastic bags, and some were made to look like oxycodone and Xanax. There was also one large black garbage bag that allegedly contained as many as 100,000 pills, in assorted colors and sizes.
Prosecutors also said more than 22 pounds of fentanyl in powder form was found wrapped in clear plastic packaging in the kitchen, living room and Lorenzo’s bedroom.
Aside from the drugs, a loaded semi-automatic assault weapon with an extended magazine and a box of ammo was found in a hallway closet as well, according to the special narcotics prosecutor.
The investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration ‘s Long Island Task Force, made up of DEA agents, the Nassau and Suffolk counties’ district attorney’s offices, as well as state and local police. The Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Investigators Unit also assisted in the investigation.
Investigators say a woman in Manhattan was busted for selling rainbow fentanyl and hiding it in Lego boxes, Erica Byfield reports.
Brennan said that the bust seized up to $6 million in pills, and an additional $3 million in powdered fentanyl.
“The accused traffickers kept an assault weapon on hand and set up their stash house in a residential building near a highway, with easy access into and out of New York City. Fentanyl pills are masquerading in many different forms, and our city is flooded with them,” Brennan said. “Any street drug, whether it looks like a legitimate pharmaceutical or like candy, may be fentanyl, and it may be lethal.”
A DEA lab will analyze the narcotics seized. The investigation is ongoing.
“There is no question this seizure of poisonous fentanyl saved lives,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino. “Hundreds of thousands of lethal pills were lying in wait in a Bronx apartment to be unleashed onto our streets. In today’s world, the potential to overdose is dangerously high. There is no quality control in these fake pills and it only takes two milligrams of fentanyl to be lethal…These drug traffickers are brazen, but they will be held accountable.”
The bust comes after DEA agents seized 15,000 brightly colored rainbow fentanyl pills found hidden in children’s toys. The DEA said a New Jersey woman rented a car and drove the drugs to the west side of Manhattan, near 10th Avenue and West 37th Street. That’s where agents found her with the cache of dangerous pills, stuffed in a Lego box next to toy bricks.
“It looks partly like an attempt to market fentanyl as a party drug,” said Brennan.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, has become the leading cause of overdose deaths in America, along with other synthetic opioids. The CDC reports that over 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids. Nabarun Dasgupta, a senior scientist at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, joins LX to discuss the rise in fentanyl-related overdoses.
Multi-colored and bite-sized, the feds are warning parents to keep their kids away from the pills, which the DEA said contain lethal doses of fentanyl. The agency’s special agent in charge of the New York division said that the materials are supplied by the Chinese, and the Mexican cartels make the drugs.
“Unequivocally, Mexico and China are an existential threat to the United States,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino. “This is every parent’s worst nightmare.”
The pills in the clear bag and wrapped up in black tape have a street value of $300,000.