4 million pills, 864 pounds of illegal fentanyl seized in California in last 18 months

More than four million fentanyl pills and 864 pounds of fentanyl powder were seized over the last 18 months by law enforcement agencies across California as they continue to battle the opioid crisis, officials said on Wednesday, Oct. 12.

During that span, law enforcement agencies arrested 217 suspects accused of moving or dealing deadly fentanyl, said California Attorney General Rob Bonta during a downtown Los Angeles press conference.

“Throughout the nation, we continue to address the impacts of the opioid crisis and have in recent years seen a marked increase in fentanyl use and associated deaths,” the attorney general said.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during a press conference in Los Angeles on recent significant fentanyl enforcement actions by the California Department of Justice. Bonta also confirmed that his office has launched an investigation into the City of Los Angeles redistricting after a recent racist incident among city council members. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during a press conference in Los Angeles on recent significant fentanyl enforcement actions by the California Department of Justice. Bonta also confirmed that his office has launched an investigation into the City of Los Angeles redistricting after a recent racist incident among city council members. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during a press conference in Los Angeles on recent significant fentanyl enforcement actions by the California Department of Justice. Bonta also confirmed that his office has launched an investigation into the City of Los Angeles redistricting after a recent racist incident among city council members. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during a press conference in Los Angeles on recent significant fentanyl enforcement actions by the California Department of Justice. Bonta also confirmed that his office has launched an investigation into the City of Los Angeles redistricting after a recent racist incident among city council members. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during a press conference in Los Angeles on recent significant fentanyl enforcement actions by the California Department of Justice. Bonta also confirmed that his office has launched an investigation into the City of Los Angeles redistricting after a recent racist incident among city council members. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during a press conference in Los Angeles on recent significant fentanyl enforcement actions by the California Department of Justice. Bonta also confirmed that his office has launched an investigation into the City of Los Angeles redistricting after a recent racist incident among city council members. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during a press conference in Los Angeles on recent significant fentanyl enforcement actions by the California Department of Justice. Bonta also confirmed that his office has launched an investigation into the City of Los Angeles redistricting after a recent racist incident among city council members. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during an Oct. 12, 2022, press conference in Los Angeles about enforcement of illegal fentanyl. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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In Southern California, the operations led to the seizure of nearly 2.3 million fentanyl pills and 762 pounds of powder, Bonta said, and 121 arrests.

In the Inland Empire, 25 suspects were arrested while 790,000 pills and 36 pounds of powder were seized, he said.

Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and just two milligrams could be fatal, Bonta said, adding that his office was aware of rainbow-colored pills said to be targeted for children. When mixed with other drugs, fentanyl increases the likelihood of a fatal overdose, he said.

The state has budgeted nearly $8 million for the effort, allowing Bonta’s office to hire for new positions, he said.

“Today is a down payment on our work to tackle the fentanyl crisis,” Bonta said. “The poison peddlers in our neighborhoods should watch out because we are coming for them next.”

Bonta said the state was not interested in “restarting the war on drugs,” by putting those struggling with addiction behind bars but rather getting them treatment.

The opioid crisis began in the 1990s, Bonta said, as pharmaceutical companies “put profits over lives” by misleading the public about the effects of the drug.

In addition to the busts, settlements between the state Department of Justice and pharmaceutical companies have netted $32 billion nationwide, with $2 billion specifically for California, “bringing much needed funding back to communities for treatment and prevention strategies,” Bonta said.

“Every dollar, every investment, every person, every takedown potentially saves a life,” the attorney said. “The number of pills — every one of those represents a potential injury or death. We’re seeing a crisis, and when you see a crisis you need to do what you do in a crisis: All hands on deck.”

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