Federal agents in Rhode Island seized hundreds of thousands of methamphetamine pills in a record-breaking bust.
In an announcement Monday, the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said that agents seized more than 660,000 counterfeit Adderall pills laced with methamphetamine, the largest such seizure on record. The pills, which weighed more than 660 pounds, had an estimated street value of $4.6 million, officials said. The bust was originally conducted in March.
“We believe this to be the single largest seizure of fake Adderall pills in the United States, as well as among the largest seizures of methamphetamine in DEA New England Field Division history,” Zachary A. Cunha, U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island, said in remarks Monday. “The quantity of methamphetamine represented by this seizure – methamphetamine that was packaged, prepped, and ready to flow out onto the street, to devastating effect in our communities – is staggering.”
According to Cunha, the bust was part of an ongoing investigation. The Boston Globe added, citing a plea agreement filed in federal court Monday, that the investigation involved a confidential source who provided information to the DEA that the suspect was supplying counterfeit pills laced with methamphetamine. The source reportedly informed the DEA that the suspect produced and sold “thousands” of counterfeit pills, and often gave them without charge for a promise to pay later. The source then worked with the agency to purchase the pills from the suspect, which led to agents executing search warrants at two locations in Cumberland, Rhode Island.
Along with the pills, agents seized two motorized pill presses; DEA New England Field Division Special Agent in Charge Brian Boyle said, via the Boston Globe, that the presses could produce approximately 10,000 pills per hour. Agents also seized a bucket containing about 40 pounds of methamphetamine mixture ready to be pressed into pill form. They also seized:
- 1500 pills laced with fentanyl
- 11 kilograms of methamphetamine powder
- 250 grams of crack cocaine
- $15,000 cash, and
- Seven handguns, including two so-called “ghost guns,” and two more guns with destroyed serial numbers
Boyle said that the methamphetamine likely came from Mexican drug cartels, and that the suspect was likely a low-level dealer. “The Mexican cartels are producing meth at record rates,” he said. The suspect does not have any previous federal charges, but was charged with burglary for an armed home invasion when he was 18.
The suspect was charged with possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. The charge carries a minimum sentence of ten years in prison; under the terms of the plea agreement, the suspect will serve at least the minimum sentence, Cunha said.
Cunha also said that Rhode Island, and New England more broadly, are experiencing a worsening trend of meth and other drugs. Opioids like fentanyl killed 435 people in Rhode Island alone last year. Across the country, more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2021, a record number, The Daily Wire reported in May. Of those deaths, 64% came from opioids, while another 28% came from stimulants like methamphetamine, Cunha said.
The U.S. attorney closed his remarks with a warning about counterfeit pills. “Pills that contain these drugs … don’t come stamped with the label ‘fentanyl’ or ‘meth,’” said Cunha. “They are … deliberately made to look like something else- whether its Adderall®, or Percocet®, or some other drug that the buyer may think is safe and what it appears to be.”
“If you, or a loved one, are buying or taking pills … from anywhere that is not a pharmacy or a physician, the odds are that it’s not what you think,” he added. “And if whatever you get is laced with fentanyl, that pill may be the last thing you take- that’s not hyperbole- it’s a grim truth.”