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New York authorities seize 15K fentanyl pills disguised as candy in LEGO box, just before Halloween

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Image source: Video screenshot

Authorities in New York City arrested one person and seized nearly 15,000 "rainbow fentanyl" pills that were disguised and hidden in a LEGO box in what was the largest drug bust of its kind to date in the city.

With Halloween just around the corner, the fentanyl pills had been made to look like candy and prescription medications in what officials say appears to be a disturbing attempt to market the deadly synthetic opioid to children. The Drug Enforcement Administration and New York police cooperated in the investigation and announced the arrest in a press conference on Tuesday.

“Rainbow fentanyl is a clear and present danger, and it is here in New York City,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino said in a statement.

“Approximately forty percent of the pills we analyze in our lab contain a lethal dose; and in a recent 15-week enforcement operation, DEA New York seized half a million lethal pills. These staggering statistics underscore the importance of reminding the public that just one pill can kill; and this operation alone removed the equivalent of 500,000 lethal doses of fentanyl from circulation in the Empire State. In the same reporting period, DEA seized the equivalent of over 36 million lethal doses nationally,” he said.

Latesha Bush, 48, of Trenton, New Jersey, was arrested and has been charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Authorities said that on Wednesday, Sept. 28, while conducting a surveillance operation as part of an ongoing investigation into narcotics trafficking, they observed Bush carrying what appeared to be a black tote bag wrapped around a large object as she entered a vehicle in front of 475 10th Avenue in Manhattan.

Agents and officers stopped the vehicle and allegedly found Bush in the rear seat with two black tote bags and a yellow LEGO container. Inside the LEGO box, officials say they discovered "several brick-shaped packages covered in black tape" that, when opened, were found to contain approximately 15,000 pills. Preliminary lab testing indicated the presence of fentanyl, authorities said.

The investigation traced the origins of those pills to Mexico and the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

“Disguising fentanyl as candy – and concealing it in children’s toys – will never hide the fact that fentanyl is a deadly poison that harms our communities, our families, and our city,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell said in a statement.

“The criminal complaint unsealed today is another example of the NYPD’s relentless commitment to never stop working to rid New York City of illegal drugs and I want to thank the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, the DEA New York Division, the New York State Police, and everyone else involved in this case for their exceptional work,” he added.

New York State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen said, “I want to thank our members and law enforcement partners for their unwavering work in stopping the flow of illegal drugs throughout our state. The arrest of Latesha Bush and the seizure of these lethal drugs are the direct result of a commitment to aggressively target and pursue criminals who perpetuate the distribution of these narcotics. Together, we will continue to eliminate these operations and those who seek to destroy the quality of life within our communities.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Just two milligrams of the drug, equivalent to 10-15 grains of table salt, is enough to kill an adult.

DEA officials have said fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat facing this country. CDC data shows 107,622 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, with 66% of those deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Last month, a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general called on President Joe Biden to declare fentanyl a "weapon of mass destruction."

This latest fentanyl seizure in New York follows other high-profile drug busts along the southern border. Rainbow fentanyl trafficked from border states like Arizona has been found in Washington, D.C., and other major U.S. cities.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, in August there was more than a 200% increase in fentanyl seizures by weight (lbs) along the border compared to that month last year. There was a total of 11, 201 lbs of fentanyl seized in all of fiscal year 2021. That number has already been exceeded this fiscal year, with more than 12,800 lbs of fentanyl seized by authorities.

DEA analysis has found that 42% of counterfeit pills tested for fentanyl contained at least 2 mg of the drug, considered a potentially lethal dose. Drug traffickers typically distribute fentanyl by the kilogram. One kilogram of fentanyl, roughly two pounds, can kill 500,000 people. The amount of fentanyl reportedly seized this year alone could kill more than one billion people.

More from WNWY-TV:

DEA finds candy-like fentanyl pills in LEGO box in NYCyoutu.be

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