A jury in Seattle convicted a trio of drug traffickers on Aug. 4 on charges stemming from their involvement in a drug ring that sold pills made to look like Oxycodone that contained deadly fentanyl imported from China.
According to testimony at trial, Bradley Woolard, the leader of the drug ring, began to buy fentanyl and a fentanyl derivative from China in 2015 and 2016, after learning how to do so on the dark web. Woolard, 42, purchased a pill press and mixing materials and taught himself how to make pills. Woolard’s equipment was capable of producing 2.5 million pills.
The investigation into the drug ring began in the summer of 2018, after the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force obtained a warrant to search Woolard’s home. That search turned up 12,000 fentanyl pills, more than $1 million in cash and gold, and a secret room that contained 29 guns.
In 2017, Wollard turned the pill mill over to Anthony Pelayo, 34, while retaining the role of obtaining fentanyl from China. Woolard continued to sell the pills as he sought treatment for his own drug addiction in posh resorts in Costa Rica and Mexico that cost up to $50,000 per month.
The third man convicted on Aug. 4, Jerome Isham, 40, was one of the top salesmen for the drug ring. Evidence presented at the trial showed that he sold close to 100,000 fentanyl pills in a one-year period between the summers of 2017 and 2018.
The jury deliberated for two days before rendering a verdict.
Woolard was convicted on 28 counts of “conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, illegal gun possession, and possessing drugs with the intent to distribute them,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western District of Washington.
Conspiracy and possession of fentanyl with the intent to distribute are punishable by a minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison.
Deaths from drug overdoses in the United States increased by nearly 30 percent in 2020 from the year before, according to provisional data released on July 14. The surge was found to be driven by overdoses from fentanyl, the vast majority of which is imported illegally from China.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.