Man charged with smuggling fentanyl-laced painkillers

Counterfeit oxycodone seizureA Mexican national has been charged with importing counterfeit oxycodone containing the powerful painkiller fentanyl into the US.

19-year-old Sergio Linyuntang Mendoza Bohon of Tijuana was arrested in February after he was discovered trying to smuggle 1,200 of the counterfeit oxycodone tablets and several grams of white powder across the border into the US.

News of the charges comes in the wake of a series of deaths in the US and Canada caused by fake oxycodone and hydrocodone tablets that contain fentanyl, a much more powerful opioid analgesic.

Most recently, 10 people in the Sacramento area were killed by counterfeits mimicking Actavis' Norco brand of hydrocodone plus acetaminophen tablets.

Mendoza was taken into custody by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security (HSI) at the Otay Mesa port of entry after admitting he knew the tablets were 'oxy' and that he was attempting to smuggle the drugs into the US.

The small blue tablets had an imprint on each side falsely identifying them as oxycodone, and subsequent lab tests confirmed the powder and the pills were fentanyl.

Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues produced in clandestine laboratories can be 100 times more potent than morphine, and up to 50 times more potent than heroin, according to ICE. The drug and its analogues are being produced "to a large extent in China", says the agency.

"While we’ve successfully prevented a potentially deadly drug from reaching the streets, we face an uphill battle," commented Dave Shaw, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego.

"The demand for pharmaceutical painkillers on the black market is rapidly growing," he added.

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