Investigators say they have seized what is believed to be among the largest cache of drugs in a single location in New England history — and some of the bogus pills were disguised as Valentine’s candy hearts.
The feds said Monday it was more than enough fentanyl, meth and other controlled substances to dose every person in Massachusetts.
“The numbers you’re about to hear are staggering,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua Levy. “But before I get to them, I just want to remind everybody as we stand in this room today, six people in Massachusetts are going to die of opioid-related overdoses. Six people today, six people tomorrow, six people Wednesday.
“Last year, we lost 2,357 residents of Massachusetts,” he continued. “Every one of those people is someone’s child. Maybe someone’s parent. Someone’s loved one.”
The seizure, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, included an estimated 10 million doses of controlled substances, including 8 million doses of pills and powder laced with fentanyl and methamphetamine. The street value of the drugs is estimated upwards of $8 million.
Three Lynn men were arrested Wednesday in connection with the large-scale drug operation, Emilio Garcia, 25, Sebastien Bejin, 33, and Deiby Felix, 40.
Local police investigating an overdose death in Salem in July began to trace the operation, authorities said, leading a partnership of federal, state and local investigators to pinpoint the three suspects as alleged leaders of the ring.
“For three months, federal investigators were conducting surveillance of these three individuals and their alleged drug operation, which culminated in the searches that were done on Nov. 1,” said Levy, referring to when the drugs were found. “Great police work rarely makes headlines. But it does save lives. We’re taking deadly narcotics off the streets.”
The drugs were found in the basement of a two-family home occupied by multiple families and small children.
The seizure included approximately 22 pounds of powder containing meth and cocaine, 37 pounds of suspected raw meth, 280,000 counterfeit Percocet pills, 59 pounds of counterfeit Adderall, and 4 pounds of powder containing cocaine, fentanyl and meth. Police also found five guns.
The counterfeit Adderall is believed to contain meth, and the counterfeit Percocet is believed to contain fentanyl, authorities said.
“The worst part” though, Levy said, is the design of this particular batch of fentanyl — disguised as Valentine’s candy hearts.
“This is new to us,” Levy said. “This this marketing of drugs like candy is a new development. And it’s very frightening.”
The investigation into the new marketing strategy is ongoing, authorities said, but investigators believe the shape could be to help the avoid detection and expand the market.
These sort of “bait and switch” disguised drugs can easily prove fatal for many young people, FBI Special Agent Jodi Cohen said.
“The overdose epidemic has and does to this day wreak devastation on all of our communities,” said Cohen. “There is no demographic this does not touch. Let this case serve as a warning that if you or a loved one are buying pills off the street or getting them from a friend or from anywhere that is not a pharmacy or physician, they might be they might not be what you think and it could cost you your life.”
The defendants will return to U.S. District Court on Nov. 13.