A New Jersey record 31-pound seizure of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl was enough to kill more than half the state's population, authorities said Monday.
"While it has been spotlighted for killing Prince and other celebrities, fentanyl also is responsible for a growing death toll in New Jersey, where there were 417 overdose deaths from fentanyl in 2015 and 394 overdose deaths from fentanyl and fentanyl analogs in just the first six months of 2016," state Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said.
“These 14 kilos of fentanyl could have yielded upward of five million lethal doses, enough to kill more than half the population of the state of New Jersey,” he added.
Fentanyl is commonly mixed with heroin or cocaine for sale on the street, or is sold in powder compounds or counterfeit pills disguised as heroin, oxycodone or Xanax.
State Police and ICE Homeland Security Investigations teamed up for the seizure of the potentially fatal synthetic drug, which has a potency 50 times greater than heroin.
As such, "a dose as small as two to three milligrams can be fatal," Porrino said.
"Given the tiny size of a lethal dose, drug users are dying because dealers are careless about how much fentanyl they put in such mixes and pills," he
Outlined in an indictment returned by a state grand jury on Monday, the seizure is the largest of fentanyl in New Jersey history, the attorney general said.
The indictment -- secured by the state Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau --charges 23-year-old Yahmire Boardley of Camden with possession of fentanyl with the intent to distribute it.
The NJSP Trafficking South Unit and ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Cherry Hill Office teamed up to arrest Boardley while executing search warrants at several addresses in Camden, where the drug was being shipped from China, the attorney general said.
“We know that even minute quantities of fentanyl can be lethal and, in this case, we seized bricks weighing over 30 pounds,” said Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig. “The unprecedented size of this shipment of a deadly opioid speaks volumes about the scope of the addiction and overdose epidemic, which we will continue to attack on all fronts.”
“By removing more than five million potentially lethal doses of fentanyl from the streets, we not only saved the lives of users, but we may very well have saved the life of a police officer, first responder, or police K-9 who may have unintentionally come into contact with this lethal narcotic,” added Col. Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.
Fentanyl is so potent that medics and police across the U.S. have been sickened by coming into contact with it while responding to overdoses or making arrests. In this case, the State Police Hazardous Materials Response Unit assisted with the operation, Porrino noted.
In addition to fentanyl, seven fentanyl knock-offs have been sold on the street in New Jersey, usually disguised as less-powerful drugs -- heroin or oxycodone, for instance -- causing overdose deaths.
The Attorney General’s Office issued an emergency order last year adding those fentanyl knockoffs to the list of drugs subject to the strictest level of state control.
Deputy Attorney General Katherine Morris presented the indictment to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
Detective Garrett Cullen was the case agent for the investigation for the State Police Intelligence Section, Violent & Organized Crime Control Bureau South, Trafficking South Unit.
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