by: Tom Regan Updated:
BARTOW COUNTY, Ga. - Deputies in Bartow County made a record-setting bust of fentanyl, an extremely powerful and deadly narcotic, along Interstate 75.
The Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force seized 40 kilos of the drug after stopping a pickup truck on I-75 in March.
They initially thought it was cocaine, but the Georgia Bureau of Investigation tested it and last week confirmed that it was powdered fentanyl.
The bust was one of the largest seizures of fentanyl in the country and broke the record here in Georgia.
“It could be the largest seizure or top three in the United States of fentanyl,” Capt. Mark Mayton said.
Mayton told Channel 2’s Tom Regan that the dangerous synthetic opioid was likely made in an underground lab in China and shipped to Mexico before passing into Georgia.
They don’t know if it was supposed to be delivered to Georgia or was just passing through.
K-9 unit Halo helped in the massive bust. He was able to sniff out the 80 pounds of drugs wrapped into blocks hidden in buckets and immersed in a thick fluid.
Agents arrested Miguel Angel Valencia, who is being held in the Bartow County jail awaiting a Superior Court bond hearing.
Fentanyl, which is up to 100 times stronger than morphine, was in the news last week when officials disclosed it had caused the April overdose death of the singer Prince.
It's been linked to a menacing spike in overdose deaths, usually coupled with heroin. Dealers use it as a cheap filler in heroin that makes the drug stronger and much more profitable. A kilo of fentanyl goes for around $3,500. A kilo of real heroin would cost $20,000-$30,000.
“They're taking this lower-cost product, adding it to heroin, which is making more volume for them in the drugs,” Mayton said.
The Atlanta based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says fentanyl, which can be fifty times stronger that heroin, is responsible for an epidemic of overdose deaths.
It's pharmaceutically produced to treat chronic pain, as in a cancer patient, but also is made illicitly as a street drug. Many users underestimate its potency.
Drug Enforcement Administration officials in Atlanta warns that even a quarter of a microgram of fentanyl could lead to a fatal overdose.
“We're thinking about how many people are not going to die because 40 kilos of fentanyl is off the streets,” Mayton said.
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