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Two men in Southern California have been arrested for allegedly possessing enough fentanyl to kill nearly five million people.
Edgar Alfonso Lamas, 36, and Carlos Raygozaparedes, 53, were found with more than 20lb (9kg) of fentanyl, nearly 200lb (91kg) of cocaine and more than 800lb (363kg) of methamphetamine in a minivan in Orange County last month, the district attorney said.
Both men have been charged with six drug-related counts with enhancements. They have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
A lethal dose of fentanyl is estimated at two milligrams. With a reported haul of more than 20lb, in theory this would be enough fentanyl to kill 4.7 million people.
Fentanyl is strong opioid painkiller only available on prescription, used to treat severe pain, for example during or after an operation or a serious injury, or pain from other diseases.
While common effects of the drug are euphoria, sleepiness and pain relief, the risks are hefty, from constipation and nausea to respiratory arrest and death, especially if mixed with other class A drugs,
If Lamas and Raygozaparedes are found guilty of all charges – one felony count of possession of sale of a controlled substance, three felony counts of sale or transportation for sale of a controlled substance, and two felony counts of possession of sale of a controlled substance – they could face a maximum sentence of 37 years and four months behind bars, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
The drug bust is considered to be the largest of its kind in the county's history.
In a statement, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said: "Millions of unsuspecting people have the grim reaper looking over their shoulder and they have no idea how close they actually are to dying from taking a single pill.
"Fentanyl is cheap, it’s easy to get and it is killing our children, our coworkers, and tens of thousands of innocent Americans who don’t have to die.
"Drug dealers don’t care about you or your loved ones – they only care about their bottom line and making as much money as possible.
"With fentanyl in an estimated 40 percent of street drugs, it’s not a matter of if but when someone you know and love dies from fentanyl. We have to continue to do everything we can to combat this deadly drug epidemic and save lives."
Both men are being held on $5 million bail, with a preliminary hearing set for 7 June at the North Justice Centre.
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