Articles Posted in Drug Possession

What Is Fentanyl And Why Is It Being Smuggled Into The United States? iStock_000002709890_Large-2-300x200

Fentanyl is an opioid that was originally intended to be used as a painkiller and in conjunction with other drugs for anesthesia. Fentanyl was approved for common medical use in the United States in 1968. As of 2017, fentanyl was the most commonly used synthetic opioid in the medical world. Now fentanyl is also used a recreational drug, often mixed with heroin or cocaine. As a painkiller, fentanyl is more than 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl and its “structural analogs” are classified as Schedule II drugs by the federal government. This means that fentanyl has medical usefulness, but also a high potential for physical and psychological dependency and abuse. Structural analogs are synthetically made designer drugs that have a very similar scientific structure to the original but have a difference as to avoid criminal laws. Fentanyl has a handful of structural analogs that have also been declared illegal under state and federal law. The size of a few grains of salt of fentanyl could be a deadly dose to the user. It is an extremely powerful drug.

Fentanyl is now being seized at the United States/ Canada border in Detroit at alarming rates. Statistics show that from 2015-17 there was just over one-half pound of fentanyl seized in that three-year period. In 2018 alone that number nearly tripled to almost a pound and a half. As of 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized nearly 10.5 pounds of fentanyl. That is enough to kill nearly 1.5 million people. Nationally the rate of fentanyl seized today is 35 times what it was back in 2015. The recreational demand for fentanyl is at an all-time high. Its potency and addictiveness are what could continue to increase this frightening trend.

Following the death of Prince in 2016, Fentanyl became a well-known painkiller that prior to that time was rarely mentioned. Unfortunately, people often take this drug believing it is hydrocodone although it’s said to be 50 times stronger than heroin. Still, regardless of the danger, many continue to sell or distribute this Schedule II drug which not only causes severe dependence but is highly abused. While it is approved for use in cancer patients with excruciating pain, using it in any criminal manner may result in serious consequences. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

Used as a recreational drug, many who purchase what they believe to be other narcotic drugs such as heroin or opioid drugs often don’t realize the drug is actually fentanyl disguised as another pharmaceutical or “street” drugs. Over the last 17 years thousands of individuals have died as a result of using fentanyl, even when prescribed by medical professionals but used improperly by patients in some cases.

Fentanyl is highly potent, and can result in overdose when used by those who are seeking a “high” because of its addictive properties. Derived from morphine, fentanyl is not only administered via IV prior to surgery but can also be taken in tablet, lozenge, film, powder, nasal spray, or transdermal (through the skin) form.

Recently a Lansing man was sentenced to five years, 10 months in prison for allegedly transporting cocaine from Texas to Michigan. Carlos Ramirez-Zuniga was reportedly involved in a drug ring, much to the surprise of friends and family members. iStock_000040898380_Full-2-300x200

News reports indicate that friends and family were in disbelief after learning of the crime Ramirez-Zuniga had allegedly committed. According to the government, he was involved in a drug ring that began in 2001 in Michigan, one that “Hector,” a man whose real name was Merced Alvarado, began.

Ramirez-Zuniga’s defense lawyer stated in a sentencing memorandum that his client was concerned about his children viewing him in an unflattering light, something other than the loving, providing father he was known to be. His attorney went on to say that he is “very remorseful” for the mistakes he has made. Additionally, numerous letters were provided to the court supporting the fact that Ramirez-Zuniga was a highly regarded member of the community who was considered to be of ‘good character’ by those who knew him.

Earlier in July, Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team (KVET) investigators learned that a man was transporting crystal meth into Kalamazoo County. This led to the arrest on July 23rd of 36-year-old Buddy Parker of Fairfield, Ohio, who according to reports was trafficking the drug in from California.

Copyright David Hardman
In the course of the investigation members of the KVET team learned that Parker intended to bring in about five pounds of the crystal meth from California, an amount with a street value of more than $300,000. Parker was arrested before delivery of the drugs occurred, and was reportedly in possession of three handguns, one of which was loaded, and a substantial amount of cash. Reports also claim more meth, money, and guns were discovered when officials searched Parker’s Ohio home.

KVET, along with the Butler County Sheriff’s Office Undercover Regional Narcotics Taskforce investigated the case. The handguns and money said to be in Parker’s possession were found in his vehicle when a search was conducted by authorities.

Over the past two or three years heroin has made a strong comeback in West Michigan, resulting in not heroinonly countless deaths due to overdose, but a substantial rise in criminal charges. HIDTA, or high intensity drug trafficking areas, include Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Detroit, among others. Not too many years ago, Flint became a city that ranked continuously as one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. for several reasons, one being a sharp increase in heroin use. How does the increase of heroin addiction relate to the increase in crime in the state?

In regions where heroin addiction is high (particularly HIDTA regions), violent and property crimes are quite common. Heroin addicts often know no boundaries when it comes to getting their “fix,” and those who distribute or traffic heroin will go to almost any lengths to protect their distribution operations. Some of the most common criminal offenses committed by addicts who seek the funds to support their addictions include burglary, robbery, retail fraud, and other theft crimes.

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On Thursday, April 14, a 30-year-old Jacksonville, NC man was stopped by the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office Crime Reduction Team. Although news reports do not reveal why Andrew James Sanderford was stopped by officers, he now faces felony drug charges. iStock_000013484355_XXXLarge-270x300

According to news reports, the officers discovered heroin inside Sanderford’s vehicle along with drug paraphernalia. He also allegedly has outstanding warrants. Sanderford is now charged with a single count of possession of drug paraphernalia, and one count of possession with intent to manufacture, deliver, or sell heroin, a felony charge. At last news reports he was in the Onslow County Jail under a $30,000 bond.

The media reports contain very few details, so we can only speculate as to why Sanderford was charged with possession with intent to distribute/deliver heroin. Police generally submit a charging request to the prosecutor, who then decides whether an individual will be charged with a crime, and what the charge will be. In cases involving illegal substances such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, or other drugs, police and prosecutors often make their decision regarding whether someone should be charged with simple possession or possession with intent based on the amount of drug in that person’s possession.

On Monday, April 4 the CATT (Crime Area Target Team) squad of the Flint Police Department received an anonymous tip regarding possible drug activity at a residence on the city’s south side. iStock_000002709890_Large-2-300x200

According to information released by the department, police knocked on the door of the residence upon arriving at the scene and found illegal narcotics which included heroin, marijuana, and crack-cocaine. Officers also discovered four firearms, one of which was stolen, and cash at the home. Police confiscated what they described as “large amounts” of drugs along with the firearms and money.

News reports from April 14 state charges against the four individuals, who were not named, are pending review by the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office.

Following an 8-month-long investigation by a DEA task force which netted $2.4 million in cash and 31 kilos of cocaine in the Baltimore area, four men are now facing federal drug charges. According to news reports at CBS in Baltimore, the major drug trafficking ring has ties to a Mexican drug organization. DEA Special Agent Karl Colder said following the massive drug bust that the task force has “just disrupted a major cell here in the area.” iStock_000022833496XSmall

Authorities say the men were disguising the drug deal organization as KMKJ Trucking, and transporting large amounts of drugs into Maryland from Mexico. DEA agents received a tip about the company, and on Friday discovered nearly 60 lbs. of cocaine inside a vehicle leaving unit L at the alleged trucking company’s warehouse. Two days earlier, the men reportedly unloaded a tractor trailer at that same warehouse.

Investigators also served a search warrant at one of the men’s homes, and discovered duffel bags in the basement containing more than $2 million dollars in cash that was vacuum-sealed, along with a ledger detailing the drug transactions. Those arrested in the drug trafficking scheme include 64-year-old Hector Hernandez-Villapando, two of his sons, and William Cornish, who news reports refer to as an accomplice. All of the men now face life in prison if convicted.

On Sunday, April 3, a 19-year-old Cincinnati man was arrested on drug charges after he drew the attention of Madison County Sheriff’s Dept. deputies by stopping suddenly on Interstate 75. iStock_000013484355_XXXLarge-270x300

According to news reports, Christian Michael Spaulding was traveling in a southbound direction on the interstate when he went off the roadway after crossing all lanes of traffic. Upon exiting his vehicle, it continued moving forward. When deputies arrived at the scene, they noticed Spaulding’s speech was slurred, and that he was having problems maintaining his balance. Deputies asked Spaulding what was going on, to which he replied he had a flat tire. The citation claims that when asked if deputies could search his vehicle, Spaulding refused.

A canine unit was deployed by deputies, which resulted in the dog alerting to the presence of drugs in the vehicle. Upon searching, officers discovered a baggie containing four Xanax pills, six empty baggies, and several baggies of marijuana packaged for delivery.

On Saturday, March 26,a 25-year-old Odessa, NE woman was arrested after a police K-9 unit detected methamphetamine in the vehicle she was driving. Ashley Foged was stopped by Beatrice police after she failed to signal while making two right turns. iStock_000018174837_Full-2-300x200

According to court documents, an officer observed Foged’s vehicle as she turned right onto Market Street, then turned right onto 12th Street. Both times, the officer claims she failed to signal. Upon being pulled over, Foged identified herself but could not produce a driver’s license as it had been suspended earlier this month for failure to comply.

Police searched the vehicle after the K-9 unit was dispatched to circle Foged’s Mitsubishi SUV and alerted to the presence of drugs near the driver’s side door. Officers discovered a white substance on a digital scale that was determined to be methamphetamine, along with a marijuana pipe containing residue.

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