HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Prosecutors announced Wednesday that two dozen people were arrested, and nearly 4 kilograms of heroin and fentanyl were seized, in a 10-day drug sting on Long Island.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, authorities warned in announcing the arrests that just one sniff of fentanyl could be deadly.
An overdose of Fentanyl was to blame for the death of Prince earlier this year. Authorities emphasized that the drug is easily produced, and people can be exposed to it easily.
The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office discussed the 24 fentanyl arrests Wednesday in Hauppauge.
Investigators said they found the narcotics at drug overdose scenes wrapped in lottery ticket paper stamped with the words Aleve, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Bridge or Clean Up. An assault rifle, bullet proof vests, scales and over $20,000 in cash were also seized during the arrests.
Investigators believe the dealers delivered more than 3,000 bags of heroin and fentanyl per week from New York City to Long Island.
Some of those arrested could be charged with murder following the deaths of 10 people, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.
“Ultimately, a decision will be made as to whether there is the possibility or probability of charging one or more of these individuals with homicide, some form of homicide,” Spota said.
At the news conference on the arrests, District Attorney Thomas Spota displayed a bag full of fentanyl, a pure white powder. But just a tiny fraction of the amount he displayed could be deadly.
“It’s really disturbing, because something as small as a grain of salt could actually kill you,” said James Hunt, special agent in charge for the New York Field Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration,
Fentanyl is an opioid that is 30 to 50 percent stronger than heroin. It is legally prescribed for pain, but is also being produced illegally and marketed to addicts for its greater high.
Hunt said fentanyl is so dangerous that DEA agents have been instructed not to perform tests to identify the drug in the field.
“Even if you just like sniff it, and it gets into your lungs, it can cause cardiac arrest,” Hunt said. “It’s so potent, it can break down the body that fast.”
That is exactly what happened to two officers in Atlantic County, New Jersey who accidentally inhaled fentanyl while bagging it during a bust.
“A bunch of it poofed up in the air right into our face, and we ended up inhaling it,” one officer said.
“I felt like my body was shutting down,” the other said. “I thought that was it. I thought I was dying.”
Another specialist, Dr. Michael Fiori, said the officers’ reaction to the drug is even quicker than what a frequent drug user would experience.
‘Their body’s not tolerant to it, so they rapidly can develop respiratory depression, low blood pressure, and to them it feels like the light is going out,” Fiori said.
Experts said a fatal dose of fentanyl can be absorbed into a body just by touching it.
DEA agents said it is the most dangerous drug they have seen in more than 30 years.
The New York DEA has seized about 50 kilos of fentanyl this year, while they seized just two kilos in 2015. The street value for one kilo of fentanyl is as much as $1.5 million.
There are five overdose victims every day in Suffolk County.
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