Boston Police and DEA agents cooperated to seize more than 33 pounds of fentanyl—enough of the potent narcotic to kill every person in the state of Massachusetts.
On Friday, Feb. 9, a six-month joint investigation, called Operation High Hopes, paid off with the arrests of 37 suspects, including an alleged cartel kingpin Robert Contreras, 42, of Roxbury, Massachusetts.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley told the Boston Herald that Operation High Hopes was “one of the longest, most far-reaching and most successful state wiretap investigations in Massachusetts history. But it did not stop there. It continued up the ladder to identify a second group at the top of the domestic pyramid, one with direct ties to Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel.”
“We allege that the Contreras organization worked with members of the Sinaloa cartel, one of the most powerful drug-trafficking organizations in the world, who imported huge quantities of narcotics into the northeastern United States,” Conley told the Herald.
#KeepingBostonSafe: BPD Special Investigations Unit & Law Enforcement Partners Make One of the Biggest Drug Busts in Massachusetts History 37 under arrest, 40 kilos of Fentanyl, cocaine and heroin, 6500 Fentanyl pills, $260,000 cash and 5 cars seized https://t.co/rcgyjcLyL4 pic.twitter.com/a4SDCuI2BK
— Boston Police Dept. (@bostonpolice) February 8, 2018
“In fact, we believe they were so high in the distribution structure that the next level up would take us outside the United States. Evidence suggests that the Contreras organization would receive those cartel narcotics and distribute them to the Soto-Perez group and others, who would in turn supply lower-level dealers.”
Robert Contreras was charged with trafficking in fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine, and is being held on $1 million bail.
“Individuals who buy and sell at this level aren’t users,” Conley told Fox News. “They’re not small-time dealers, either. They’re certainly not selling to support a habit. They’re trafficking in addictive substances that claim more lives in Massachusetts than all homicides, all suicides, and all car crashes, statewide, combined.”
Along with the fentanyl, more than 43 pounds of other drugs were seized, including heroin, cocaine, and opioid pills. Law enforcement reported seizing more than $300,000 in drug money as well.
Seven Million Lethal Doses
The 33 pounds of fentanyl could be broken down into lethal overdoses for 7 million people, a law enforcement source told the Herald.
“It takes only two milligrams and it’s lights out for an individual,” said DEA agent Michael J. Ferguson, who heads up the New England Division.
“We’re talking a couple of grains of salt or sand. It can kill you if you inject it in your arm, if you snort it up your nose, or simply breathe it in the air.”
Cartel Switching to Fentanyl
Sam Quinones is the author of the new book “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” and an expert on Mexican drug cartels.
Quinones told the Herald that the Sinaloa cartel is moving away from its staples, cocaine and heroin because fentanyl offers so many advantages—to a criminal enterprise.
Unlike cocaine and heroin, which start as plants, fentanyl is synthetic.
Instead of trying to hide huge acreage of coca plants or opium poppies, which only grow in certain climates and which must be cultivated, harvested, processed, and purified, fentanyl can be made in a lab—and that lab can be anywhere.
The cost of manufacturing is much lower, the operation is easier to hide, and the drug can be as much as 50 times more potent than heroin, which means smaller quantities have to be created and transported.
Fentanyl can be formed into pills, but is often transported as a powder, which is incredibly dangerous, Quinones, said, because it is easy to accidentally inhale a fatal dose.
Eighteen Pittsburgh SWAT team officers had to be hospitalized for inhaling fentanyl during a raid on Aug. 9, 2017.
In another tragic case, a Pennsylvania woman died after absorbing tiny amounts of powder after cleaning up her bathroom after her son lethally overdosed there.