The operator of a rehab facility in Pennsylvania was found secretly running a narcotics distribution operation out of the treatment center that peddled heroin and fentanyl.
Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration raided the rehab facility and the home of the operator Friday, seizing at least five “bricks” of fentanyl. Court documents did not specify the specific amount of fentanyl seized, but noted they also found used needles, empty drug baggies and a number of addicts using drugs when they entered the premises, reports Charleston Gazette-Mail.
David Francis, a recovering addict and founder and chief executive of the Next Step Foundation in McKees Rocks, Penn., was arrested Friday and is charged with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. Authorities were able to document his crimes through a web of confidential informants beginning over a period of two months. They were originally tipped off after a series of heroin and fentanyl related overdoses earlier this year in McKees Rocks.
Francis allegedly received roughly 80 to 100 bricks of heroin and fentanyl every month, which he distributed through his treatment center. He also allegedly has a building behind his home where he allowed addicts to inject the drugs he sold to them.
Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. The Drug Enforcement Agency issued new guidance to police departments across the country in June on how to handle heroin and other narcotics due to the increasing prevalence of fentanyl. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein warned it only takes two milligrams of fentanyl, “the equivalent of a few grains of table salt,” to cause a fatal overdose.
“It’s become where there is an expectation that if you buy heroin, it will have some fentanyl in it,” Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, previously told Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Fentanyl is blamed as the primary culprit behind the massive increase in opioid-related overdose deaths since 2010. The fatal painkiller is coming in through international mail and private carriers from China and Hong Kong, where the majority of fentanyl is produced globally.
Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse released Sept. 7 predicts the addiction epidemic in America will continue to deteriorate, pushing drug deaths to an estimated 71,600 in 2017. If the estimates prove accurate, 2017 will be the second year in a row that drug deaths surpass U.S. casualties from the Vietnam War.
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