A 40-year-old man from Seattle was sentenced on Dec. 17 to seven years for selling an “enormous quantity” of fentanyl.
Matthew Witters was a prominent seller of fentanyl on various encrypted websites such as AlphaBay and Dream Market between 2015 and 2017.
In December 2018, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) seized $1.1 million in cryptocurrency, cash, and other funds that Witters admitted were obtained through drug trafficking.
“Drug traffickers, like Witters, don’t care about the dangers these type of illicit substances pose to the public,” said Debra Parker, special agent in charge. “Fentanyl puts our community at great risk and HSI, with our law enforcement partners, will continue to seek out and remove from our streets those involved in the illicit drug trade.”
The day after Witters’ arrest on Dec. 10, 2018, law enforcement executed a search warrant for a safe deposit box he leased in Washington. They found more than $165,000 in currency, various suspected controlled substances, mailing labels, stamps, and a loaded Glock pistol.
“Fentanyl traffickers, who put their profits ahead of public safety, justifiably face significant federal prison sentences,” U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran said. “Trafficking in these substances endangers not only the end-user, but innocent bystanders such as postal workers or family members who might come in contact with the highly toxic substance.”
Witters drew attention after law enforcement noted that his contact information and dark web nick-names were found in residences that were involved in drug trafficking in California and Oklahoma. He remains in custody and has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people die each year in the United States due to overdoses from pain relievers, heroin, and fentanyl among other opioids. The Centers for Disease Control says that the estimated “economic burden” of this crisis is $78.5 billion a year.
According to the White House, nearly 64,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2016 alone. Opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 of these deaths, more than any previous year on record. On Sep 5, 2019, the Trump administration announced the $1.8 billion in new grants to combat the opioid crisis and secured $6 billion in additional funds in Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that from 1999 to 2017, almost 400,000 people died from an opioid overdose, including prescription and illicit opioids.