Boston 25 News sat down with top Drug Enforcement Administration agents for an in-depth look at how deadly drugs sold on the streets of New England are being made to look like common prescriptions.
The DEA says they are finding more of these imposter pills laced with lethal amounts of fentanyl.
Reporter Malini Basu spoke with a Milton man who admitted he was fooled. “I didn’t know they were pressed. I swear up-and-down they were from the pharmacy. But they weren't,” the man told Basu.
“They can make it look exactly like it came out of the pharmacy. But it isn’t. It isn’t until we get to the lab and find out that it’s nothing but fentanyl,” associate special agent in charge Jon DeLena with the DEA’s New England Field Division told Basu in an exclusive interview this fall.
“THEY’RE TARGETING OUR CHILDREN”
The DEA tells Boston 25 News that members of Mexican drug cartels have studied what prescription medication pills look like, and are now using presses to make fakes.
“They can make those pills look like almost anything. So, if they’re making those pills and manufacturing them to look like an Adderall or Xanax, they are targeting our children,” DeLena said.
A DEA sampling of pills seized earlier this year found that 27% of them contained fentanyl, often in high doses.
“You sometimes see percentages about 8 to 9 or 10%, pure fentanyl. That causes a good majority of overdoses in the United States,” said Terrance Cole, the assistant regional director of the DEA in Mexico City.
TABLETS MADE IN DIRTY BARRELS
Agents gave Boston 25 News this video of a drug lab busted deep in the jungles of the Sinaloa Valley in Mexico. Agents said the laced tablets are made in dirty barrels.
From there, agents said the cartels will do anything to get the pills onto the money-making streets of New England.
HIDDEN IN GAS TANKS, SUITCASES, AND THE U.S. MAIL
Agents said cartels are putting the laced pills in the gas tanks of cars, and tractor trailers, and they're even being shipped unknowingly through the U.S. Postal Service.
“Sometimes it’s concealed through the walls of the suitcase," said AJ Collazo, special agent in charge with the Caribbean region.
"Organizations will send a team of 4 to 5 people, maybe 5 or 6 kilograms, and they think they won’t get caught, and the others will get through,”
Agents said that the pills eventually end up on local New England streets, where a Milton man said the pills are easily mistaken for real pills.
“If someone takes a little bite, they're going to think it’s a real Xanax bar.”
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