Fake Roxicodone seller gets 15-year prison term

A North Carolina man has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute fentanyl in counterfeit Roxicodone tablets.

Justin De Neko Cunningham (27) of Rock Hill was accused of involvement in a major drug trafficking organisation that obtained fentanyl and other drugs from a source in California and had them shipped to various addresses in Rock Hill and Charlotte, where they were made into Roxicodone pills.

"Federal agents learned that Cunningham was responsible for purchasing and selling thousands of these counterfeit pills, fully aware the pills purchased and sold by him were made with fentanyl," said the Department of Justice in a statement.

The pills were later sold by Cunningham in Rock Hill, Myrtle Beach, and Charlotte. Roxicodone is a brand name for oxycodone, one of the most counterfeited drugs in the US, which is also sold as OxyContin and Percocet.

US District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis sentenced Cunningham to 180 months in federal prison, to be followed by a six-year term of court-ordered supervision. There is no parole in the federal system.

Fentanyl is a schedule II prescription opioid approved for use in severe pain and is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and is responsible for thousands of deaths from overdoses in the US.

Nearly 841,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose. In 2019 alone there were 70,630 overdose-related deaths, according to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, with more than 36,000 of them involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its derivatives.

Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has issued a safety alert over what it described as an "alarming increase" in both the lethality and availability of counterfeit prescription pills.

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