DEA Seized Thousands of Fake Rx Pills Laced with Deadly Fentenyl

July 12, 2022, 5:48 p.m. ·

Counterfeit Pill laced with Fentanyl in an stock image supplied by DEA
An example of a counterfeit pill in an image released by the DEA. (Courtesy Photo)

The seizure of tens of thousands of pills laced with deadly fentanyl prompted the Omaha office of the Drug Enforcement Administration to caution the public.

According to the DEA, the amount of fentanyl seized in Nebraska far surpassed quantities taken last year from dealers. In a press release, the agency's local office claimed during the first six months of 2022, DEA investigators seized approximately 151,500 pills in the state. That would be an 83% increase compared to the total amount seized for 2021.

On July 8 and 9, DEA agents in Nebraska collected approximately 32 thousand pills. Some came laced with enough fentanyl to kill a person. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is estimated to be 50 times more potent than heroin.

DEA provided no details about the investigation that led to the seizure in Omaha. No arrests or indictments have yet been announced.

Emily Murray, public information officer for the DEA office in Omaha, said agents collected the fake pills during a current federal investigation by the Omaha agents.

"These are pills that are pressed to look exactly like legitimate prescription medication," Murray told Nebraska Public Media News. "They're made to look like oxycodone or hydrocodone or Xanax, but they are absolutely fake pills and laced with potentially lethal doses of fentanyl."

It's unusual to release information about a drug seizure before filing charges; however, Murray said the agency wanted to get the word out that the state is seeing the counterfeits laced with fentanyl "almost every day."

"Unfortunately, it's not the largest amount of pills that we have seized in a single action, which I think is kind of eye-opening and alarming in itself," she said. "These pills are out there. We know they contain fentanyl. And they're on the streets of our communities."

Nationally, the DEA claims its lab testing reveals four out of every ten pills collected contain lethal levels of fentanyl.

China is likely the source of the drugs before being pressed into tablets at laboratories operated by the Mexican cartels.

"Cartels are producing fake pills in mass quantity," said DEA Omaha Division Special Agent in Charge Justin C. King in the prepared statement. He added social media and online distribution continues "to play a significant role" in the upward trend of their availability.

"They're easy to purchase and easy to conceal," King said.

The drug agency estimates each pill to be worth 3 to 5 dollars, making the Omaha agents' seizure worth over 100 thousand dollars at street value.