A Mexican national who pleaded guilty to trafficking 500,000 fatal doses of fentanyl has been sentenced to about six years in prison.
A statement from U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst says 53-year-old Pablo Vega-Ontanon was sentenced on Sept. 9 to 74 months in prison for possession with intent to distribute heroin. He was also sentenced to five years of supervised release.
The statement says Vega-Ontanon was living in Georgia without proper documentation. It says Vega-Ontanon, Eder Ortega-Cassarubias and Eric Estudillo-Carrazco traveled to Mississippi to sell heroin to a confidential informant and were found with nine kilograms of heroin and one kilogram of fentanyl, which can produce 500,000 fatal doses.
Co-defendants Ortega-Cassarubias and Estudillo-Carrazco both pleaded guilty. Ortega-Cassarubias was sentenced to 127 months in prison and Estudillo-Carrazco will be sentenced in November.
Investigators Seize Enough Fentanyl to Kill Over 14 Million People
In a related story, law enforcement seized a large quantity of narcotics in Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas and charged 39 suspects in an alleged conspiracy to distribute large amounts of heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine in Hampton Roads, according to a release by the U.S. Department of Justice on Aug. 29.
“This massive interdiction of narcotics, which included enough fentanyl to kill over 14 million people, is proof positive of the power and strength of federal, state, and local law enforcement collaboration,” G. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in the release.
The operation was carried out by 120 officers from 30 law enforcement agencies over three days and led to the seizure of 24 firearms, 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of fentanyl, 30 kilograms of heroin, 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of cocaine, and more than $700,000 in cash.
He said the alleged drug trafficking ring is an example of fentanyl coming to the United States from China.
“The illicit fentanyl that’s coming in, the vast majority is from China and a lot of it is coming in through the mails,” Terwilliger said at a press conference.
The indictment (pdf) mentions the case of a suspect in Virginia ordering fentanyl from a vendor in Shanghai and receiving it at his residence through the mail by the U.S. Postal Service.
“The last thing we want is for the U.S. Postal Service to become the nation’s largest drug dealer, and there are people way above my pay grade working on that, but absolutely, it’s about putting pressure on the Chinese,” Terwilliger said.
The Associated Press and Epoch Times reporter Venus Upadhayaya contributed to this article.