Vincent Decaro, 31, along with an associate, worked from his Stamford home to purchase fentanyl analogues from suppliers in China. The pair pressed the drug into counterfeit oxycodone pills, which they then sold to customers on dark web markets, Leonard C Boyle, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, said.
David Reichard, Decaro’s associate, helped Decaro press pills and mail them to customers.
Decaro pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of fentanyl analogues, Leonard C Boyle, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced this week.
Authorities in April 2018 received a court authorization to search the 31-year-old’s home and found numerous pills containing approximately 330 grams of fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl, approximately 40 grams of fentanyl analogues in powder form, three pill presses, instructions on how to prepare the fentanyl analogue Carfentanil, a hazardous material suit, a gas/respirator-type mask, and numerous U.S. postal mail envelopes.
Decaro and his associate were in Europe at the time of the April search. They were arrested by Albanian State Police as they were attempting to cross the border from Albania into Kosovo on Sept. 21, 2018.
Police found alprazolam, fentanyl, and other controlled substances; tools and dies for pressing pills, and instructions for synthesizing fentanyl upon searching an apartment in Tirana where the pair had been staying.
Decaro has been released on a $50,000 bond pending sentencing, scheduled Sept. 10.
His associate, Reichard also pleaded guilty to a related charge in September 2019, but is yet to be sentenced.
Fentanyl is the synthetic opioid attributed to the escalating overdose death rate in the United States. It is most often manufactured in Mexico using chemicals supplied by China. It’s mixed with other narcotics to increase potency as well as pressed into counterfeit pain pills commonly known as “Mexican oxys.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in December 2020 that deaths from drug overdoses accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Overdose deaths were already increasing in the months before the pandemic started, but the latest numbers suggest a further acceleration, the agency said.
Over 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to provisional data the CDC released.
According to the agency, that’s an 18 percent increase over the previous 12-month period.
Synthetic opioids, primarily the illicitly manufactured fentanyl, appeared to be the primary driver in the increased number of overdose deaths, the CDC said. Those deaths increased by 38.4 percent during the period in question, when compared to the 12-month period ending in June 2019.
In the past, fentanyl had mainly been mixed into heroin to boost the high, but now it’s often pressed into small blue tablets and stamped with “M30” to closely match the color and markings of prescription oxycodone pills.
Buyers may be unaware the pills contain fentanyl, of which a 2 mg dose can be fatal.
Homeland Security Investigations in the fiscal year 2020 seized 6,105 pounds of fentanyl nationwide, making 31,915 criminal arrests alongside operations.
Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.