Authorities have busted a major supplier of heroin laced with the painkiller fentanyl, a potentially lethal mixture responsible for as many as 100 deaths in the Philadelphia area this year, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Police and federal agents discovered 300 grams of fentanyl and nearly a kilogram of heroin in a heroin-processing “mill” in the basement of a house during the summer. The 300 grams would have been enough to spike 40,000 doses of heroin, typically sold for $10 a bag. “That represents half the population of Camden that could have gotten a bag of fentanyl,” said Gerard McAleer of the Drug Enforcement Administration in New Jersey. “It was pure fentanyl. It hadn’t been diluted.”
The man charged with running the heroin mill, Jaime Castellar, 30, supplied drug dealers in Camden and Philadelphia. Deaths from fentanyl have dropped off significantly since the bust. Investigators came upon the heroin mill after a naked man, yelling to neighbors for help, ran from the rented house. Workers in heroin mills typically are forced to work in the nude to prevent theft. Fentanyl flooded drug corners across the nation in the spring and summer, causing dozens of death in Chicago, Detroit, and Pittsburgh and along the East Coast. Fentanyl-laced heroin has been blamed for deaths as recently as Thanksgiving in Massachusetts. “This is probably the biggest threat that I’ve seen to the public, and I lived through the crack wars,” McAleer said. “The fentanyl problem is small now, but if it gets any bigger, it will be devastating.” The DEA responded with Operation Undertaker, an initiative that includes law enforcement, and training and education for police, paramedics, and chemical and pharmaceutical companies.