Federal authorities made a major seizure in Massachusetts of a chemical they say could be used to make more than $570 million worth of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, the Wall Street Journal reports. That much fentanyl could yield 19 million fake pills, said the U.S. Attorney’s office in Massachusetts. Authorities seized 50 kilograms of what they believe is the fentanyl precursor chemical N-Phenethyl-4-piperidinone, also known as NPP, from a storage facility in Northborough, Ma.
A large NPP seizure in New England is unusual because there are few recent instances of fentanyl-making clandestine laboratories within the U.S. Law-enforcement authorities believe most illicit fentanyl is made in China, or in Mexico with precursor chemicals from China, and then shipped to the U.S. as a finished product. There have also been seizures of fentanyl precursor chemicals in southern California, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman said. The agency believes traffickers are smuggling the precursors south to Mexico to make fentanyl in bulk. While far from the southern border, New England is a hot spot for the U.S. opioid crisis. Fentanyl is a major factor behind a rising tide of overdose fatalities in the region. “The fact that this happened in the Northeast should surprise nobody because that’s where the cartels, these traffickers, have aggressively marketed the product,” DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said.