Two men in the state of Indiana, US were indicted on July 6 on charges related to trafficking fentanyl and counterfeit pill manufacture, accused of using the dark web to purchase the drug in bulk quantities which they then used to press fake oxycodone pills.
Ethan Parker, 29, and Joshua Harvey, 30, were arrested on April 5this year at a traffic stop in Evansville, Indiana, having been the subjects of an investigation that had been underway since August 2021.
Prosecutors allege the men were delivered fentanyl in “pound quantities” from a local source after making cryptocurrency payments online, using encrypted applications and Tor to “purchase, advertise, and sell fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills.”
Shortly after their arrest, police executed a search warrant at Parker’s residence where they found close to 140 grams of counterfeit pills and fentanyl powder. Also confiscated were two pill presses, coloring agents, and special press punches used for pill design. The pills were pressed to resemble 30 mg oxycodone + paracetamol pills but contained varying amounts of fentanyl and inactive filler ingredients instead.
Parker and Harvey are thought to have distributed thousands of the fake pills over the course of the last year, prior to their arrest. Their activity coincides with what the Evansville Police Department describes as an uptick in fentanyl-related deaths in the city, which they directly attribute to the presence of the counterfeit pills.
The presence of fake oxycodone pills containing at least 2 mg of fentanyl – enough to cause a fatal overdose – is on the rise, according to the DEA. Laboratory tests conducted by the agency have produced estimates that around 4 out of 10 counterfeit oxy pills contain this much fentanyl, or more.
If convicted, Parker and Harvey could face up to 10 years behind bars, a fine up to $10 million and a supervised release of at least 5 years.