The FBI and local officials in Delaware seized enough fentanyl to kill about 75 percent of the state’s population of nearly 1 million.
Delaware State Police and the FBI on Monday announced 28 arrests in connection with the sting, called “Operation No Mas.”
All 28 suspects were charged with 252 felonies, including criminal racketeering, conspiracy, drug dealing, and other charges, officials said, as reported by WPVI-TV. Law enforcement officials said the drug ring was run by suspect Luis Renteria, who owned properties in Philadelphia and Delaware.
“Included in these results was the largest fentanyl seizure by Delaware law enforcement in the state’s history, making a major dent in the supply of fentanyl that would have been distributed on the streets of Newark and surrounding areas,” said Jennifer Boone, special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Baltimore. “Alone, the quantity of fentanyl seized could have killed thousands and thousands of people.”
Officials noted the significant amount of drugs that were recovered.
“It was enough fentanyl to kill 750,000 Delawareans,” said Lt. Robert Jones of the Delaware State Police.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that has surpassed heroin as the leading cause of overdoses in the United States, surpassing heroin in the number of overdoses.
“Sources of supplies for the Renteria organization were located in numerous states including California, Pennsylvania, and Florida,” said Jones.
Renteria faces up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted, officials said.
“The amount of fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, drug money, and guns seized in this sting has saved lives and will save lives—point blank. The actions of these narcotics enterprises have ripples stretching across our region and at times across the nation. Disrupting them helps disrupt a drug trade that I and everyone else here today can attest breeds violence in Delaware and elsewhere,” said Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings, according to reports.
China is the largest source of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-like substances in the country, according to a 2018 report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC).
Last month, the United States sanctioned an alleged fentanyl kingpin, 32-year-old Zhang Taotao, who is a chemist and chemical supplier based in Shanghai. He’s accused of shipping the drug in massive amounts to the United States.
Fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more powerful than heroin. As little as two milligrams is considered a lethal dosage for most people. Over 31,000 people in the United States have died from overdosing on synthetic opioids in 2018, most of them being fentanyl-related, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fentanyl was found in the system of George Floyd, a man who died in police custody in May and triggered a wave of riots and unrest over the summer, according to the local medical examiner’s office.
Cathy He contributed to this report.