This photo listed by the U.S. Medicine Enforcement Administration's Phoenix department shows several of the 30,000 fentanyl pills the company seized in among its enlarge busts, in Tempe, Ariz., in August, 2017. The photo shows simply one of 4 plastic containers that were stuffed with the tablets. The Southwest, and also Arizona in particular, has become Ground Zero in the nation's fentanyl dilemm with plenty of pills and powder continuing to be behind after ~ the medicine is repackaged and sent ~ above to new York and also other U.S. Destinations. Stamped v "" and "" choose the pain medication oxycodone, the fentanyl-laced pills verified up in current years as the Sinaloa cartel's newest product. (Drug Enforcement management via AP)
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This photo detailed by the U.S. Medicine Enforcement Administration's Phoenix department shows few of the 30,000 fentanyl pills the firm seized in one of its enlarge busts, in Tempe, Ariz., in August, 2017. The photo shows just one of four plastic containers the were stuffed through the tablets. The Southwest, and also Arizona in particular, has come to be Ground Zero in the nation's fentanyl situation with plenty of pills and powder continuing to be behind ~ the medicine is repackaged and sent on to new York and also other U.S. Destinations. Stamped through "" and also "" like the pain medication oxycodone, the fentanyl-laced pills verified up in recent years as the Sinaloa cartel's newest product. (Drug Enforcement management via AP)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Aaron Francisco Chavez swallowed at least one the the skies blue pills in ~ a Halloween party before falling asleep forever. He became yet an additional victim killed by a flood of illicit fentanyl smuggled from Mexico by the Sinaloa cartel into the Southwest — a lucrative new service for the drug gang that has actually made the fabricated opioid responsible because that the many fatal overdoses in the U.S.

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Three others at the party in Tucson also took the pills nicknamed “Mexican oxy.” they were conserved after partygoers flagged under police that administered naloxone overdose reversal medication. The treatment came too late for the 19-year-old Chavez.


The pills differ widely in strength, native a small amount to sufficient to reason lethal overdoses. Legislation enforcement officials say they have come to be a financially rewarding new product because that the cartel, regardless of the conviction this main of Sinaloa kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera in new York.

The four Tucson partiers believed they were taking oxycodone, a much less powerful opioid, investigators believe. The death of Chavez and also many others, public representative said, illustrate how Arizona and also other southwestern says bordering Mexico have come to be a hot spot in the nation’s fentanyl crisis. Fentanyl deaths tripled in Arizona from 2015 v 2017.



“It’s the worst I’ve watched in 30 years, this toll that it’s tackled families,” stated Doug Coleman, the U.S. Drug Enforcement administration special agent in charge of Arizona. “The crack (cocaine) situation was not as bad.”

With many of pills and powder sold locally from the getting here fentanyl shipments the are likewise distributed approximately the U.S., the medicine that has actually surpassed heroin for overdose deaths has touched all Arizona demographic groups. Chavez’ loved ones say he was working as a restaurant prep cook with dreams of becoming a chef and also trying to rotate his life around after serving prison time for a bolt conviction.

The pills that sell for $9 come $30 each likewise took the resides of a 17-year-old star high institution baseball pitcher native a Phoenix suburb and a pair the 19-year-old finest friends and prominent previous high institution athletes native Arizona’s hill town the Prescott Valley. The parental of one, Gunner Bundrick, claimed their son’s death left “a hole in our hearts.”

Popping the pills at parties “is a lot more widespread 보다 we know,” claimed Yavapai ar Sheriff’s Lt. Nate Auvenshine. “There’s much less stigma to taking a pill than placing a needle in your arm, yet one of this pills deserve to have sufficient fentanyl for three people.”

Stamped through “M″on one side and also “30” on the various other to do them look like legitimate oxycodone, the pills started arriving in Arizona in current years as the Sinaloa cartel’s newest medicine product, said Tucson Police Lt. Christian Wildblood.

The fentanyl that eliminated Chavez was amongst 1,000 pills sneaked across the border crossing last year in Nogales, Arizona by a woman who was paid $200 come tote them and gave two to Chavez at the party, according to court documents. The unknown if he took one or both.

At the very same crossing last month, U.S. Public official announced their biggest fentanyl bust ever before — practically 254 pounds (115 kilograms) found in a truckload that cucumbers, enough to potentially kill millions. Valued in ~ $3.5 million, most was in powder form and over 2 pounds (1 kilogram) was comprised of pills.

The tablet computers in most cases are manufactured in primitive conditions with pill presses to buy online, Wildblood said. The quantity of fentanyl in the counterfeit pills varies from 0.03 come 1.99 milligrams every tablet, or nearly none come a lethal dose, follow to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

“There is no top quality control,” Wildblood said.

While Chinese shipping were long blamed because that illegal fentanyl entering the U.S., Mexico’s army in November 2017 uncovered a rustic fentanyl rap in a remote component of Sinaloa state and seized precursors, perfect fentanyl and production tools — arguing some of it is currently being synthesized across the U.S. Border.

Most fentanyl smuggled from Mexico is about 10 percent pure and enters hidden in vehicles at main border crossings around Nogales and also San Diego, Customs and also Border defense data show. A decreasing number of smaller shipments through purity of as much as 90 percent still get in the U.S. In packages sent from China.

Although 85 percent the the fentanyl native Mexico is seized at san Diego area border crossings, the DEA’s 2018 nationwide Drug threat Assessment stated seizures have actually surged at Arizona’s border and also elsewhere approximately the state.

DEA statistics show Arizona fentanyl seizures climbed to 445 pounds (202 kilograms), including 379,557 pills, in the budget year finishing in October 2018, up from 172 pounds (78 kilograms), consisting of 54,984 pills, during the previous 12-month period.

The Sinaloa cartel’s ability to ramp up its own production that fentanyl and label it oxycodone reflects the group’s company acumen and why it remains amongst the world’s optimal criminal organizations, Coleman said.

“If they check out a market for their stuff, they’ll do it and bring it up,” that said.

The Centers for disease Control and also Prevention claims fentanyl is currently the drug associated in the many fatal overdoses in the U.S., with fatalities from synthetic opioids consisting of fentanyl jumping an ext than 45 percent indigenous 2016 to 2017, once they accounted for part 28,000 of about 70,000 overdose deaths of every kinds.

Fentanyl was also involved more than any other drug in the majority of overdose deaths in 2016, the year the popular music artist Prince passed away after acquisition fake Vicodin laced with fentanyl. Heroin was responsible for the many drug overdose deaths each of the 4 years before that.

CDC numbers for Arizona show the statewide deaths involving fabricated opioids excluding methadone, mostly from fentanyl, climbed from 72 in 2015 come 123 in 2016 and then skyrocketed come 267 in 2017.

In the first federal conviction of its sort in Arizona that linked a death to circulation of any type of drug, a woman from a Phoenix suburb last year obtained 12 years in jail for selling fentanyl tablets that eliminated a 38-year-old Arizona man.

And in Tucson, Chavez’ family members wonder why the mrs accused the smuggling the pills across the border allegedly made decision to hand them the end at the party, speak they were Percocet, which consists of oxycodone and also acetaminophen, and “something else,” follow to court documents.

The woman, Jocelyn Sanchez, denied describing castle that way and to be charged v transporting and transferring narcotics. She lawyer, Joel Chorny, declined to talk about the case.

Nicknamed “Sonny Boy, Chavez to be the 3rd of 10 kids born to Leslie Chavez, that was carried to the U.S. Together an infant and deported earlier to Mexico critical year, 2 months prior to he died. In a phone interview, she claimed Mexican officials arranged to have her son’s human body brought across the border so she can say goodbye.

She claimed she had “heard about how these pills to be killing people” however never believed it would take place to one of her children.

Chavez had actually a 2-year-old daughter and also “was make the efforts to get his life together, he to be trying to be good” for the toddler, said his sister, Seanna Leilani Chavez.

The dealers, she said, just care around profits.

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“They will offer you poison, take your money, and not think twice about how they could possibly be killing someone’s son, father, brothers or grandson,” she said.