(CN) — The DEA said Monday that it seized nearly 100 pounds of fentanyl in Southern California: enough to kill 14 million people — the entire state of Illinois, or everyone in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.
The June 2 federal grand jury indictment in San Diego, unsealed Monday, charges three San Diego-area residents with possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute it. All three face up to life in prison and $10 million fines.
Charged were Jonathan Ibarra, 45; Anna Baker, 30, both of Lemon Grove; and Hector Fernando Garcia, 46, of San Diego. Lemon Grove is an eastern suburb of San Diego.
Fentanyl is one of the leading culprits in the nationwide epidemic of opioid deaths. Developed from Demerol, fentanyl and its derivatives can be 50 to hundreds of times more powerful than heroin. A lethal dose for a human can be as small as 3 milligrams — a single ounce could kill 9,457 people; a pound could kill more than 150,000.
Fentanyl is a key ingredient in the lollipops given to terminally ill patients for “breakthrough pain,” because it is fast-acting and has short-term effects.
Drug dealers have been adding it to heroin — or to sugar — and selling it on the street.
According to the indictment and a statement from the U.S. attorney, the defendants discussed transporting an unidentified drug on Nov. 30, 2016, and Ibarra “received instructions” to have a courier, later identified as Baker, haul the drugs in three trips on consecutive days.
Acting on this information, with a warrant, the Drug Enforcement Administration had Baker’s car stopped and found 15 kilos of fentanyl in it. They got a search warrant for her residence, and found another 30 kilograms there.
“The combined amount – 44.14 kilograms – represents the largest fentanyl seizure sent to a DEA lab nationwide,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in the statement.
The defendants were arraigned Monday before a U.S. magistrate in San Diego.