Au­thor­i­ties seize kilo of deadly fen­tanyl in Montco

The Phoenix - - LOCAL NEWS - By Car­lHessler Jr. chessler@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @Mont­coCourtNews on Twit­ter

Call­ing it one of the largest fen­tanyl seizures in the his­tory of Mont­gomery County, pros­e­cu­tors said they were able to take a kilo of the syn­thetic opi­oid, “enough to kill half the pop­u­la­tion of the county,” off the streets.

“Fen­tanyl is deadly in very, very small amounts. Minute amounts of this drug can prove fa­tal. Given that 2 to 3 mil­ligrams of fen­tanyl, just five or six grains, can be fa­tal, the kilo that we’re talk­ing about, or 2.2 pounds, in this case con­tained enough fen­tanyl to kill half the pop­u­la­tion of Mont­gomery County,” Dis­trict At­tor­ney Kevin R. Steele said at a news con­fer­ence Tues­day.

Steele an­nounced the ar­rests of three peo­ple who al­legedly were dis­tribut­ing the fa­tal drug.

Wil­bert Tav­eras-Payano, 33, of the Bronx, New York, Lincoln Payano Del Orbe Jr., 25, of Philadel­phia, and Christina Mo­taSoto, 29, of Philadel­phia, were each ar­raigned on nu­mer­ous drug traf­fick­ing-re­lated charges in con­nec­tion with in­ci­dents that oc­curred be­tween April and July 2017. Each is be­ing held at the county jail in lieu of $1 mil­lion bail to await fur­ther court ac­tion.

Mota-Sota re­port­edly is the girl­friend of Del Orbe. Tav­eras-Payano and Del Orbe re­port­edly are cousins.

“This fen­tanyl seizure that we’re talk­ing about has saved many lives,” Steele said.

Steele al­leged that had the kilo of fen­tanyl ended up in the hands of a drug dealer it would have been sold as heroin to ad­dicts through­out Mont­gomery County and the Philadel­phia re­gion.

The one kilo of fen­tanyl, Steele said, could have been di­vided into 300,000 bags that could be sold on the street for $10 apiece. “That rep­re­sents a street value of $3 mil­lion,” Steele said “That’s 300,000 bags that are not on the street and … will not be caus­ing pos­si­ble over­dose deaths.”

Gary Tug­gle, spe­cial agent in charge of the Drug En­force­ment Agency in Philadel­phia, called the seizure sig­nif­i­cant.

“The amount of fen­tanyl that was seized in this par­tic­u­lar case could have pro­duced as much as one mil­lion fake pills. Not just are we po­ten­tially sav­ing peo­ple who think they’re get­ting ei­ther fen­tanyl or heroin but also folks who are un­know­ingly buy­ing this stuff think­ing they’re get­ting pre­scrip­tion opi­oids,” Tug­gle added.

Steele said fen­tanyl is 40 to 50 times more deadly than heroin.

“It means that the tini­est amount, air­borne that’s in­haled, or a touch of fen­tanyl that’s ab­sorbed through the skin, can lead to re­s­pi­ra­tory de­pres­sion, re­s­pi­ra­tory ar­rest and pos­si­bly death. And when it’s shot up by those who are ad­dicted, it means many of them are go­ing to die,” Steele said.

Steele noted that of the 249 over­dose deaths in Mont­gomery County in 2016, 108 in­volved fen­tanyl.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan in April, when un­der­cover agents work­ing with county de­tec­tives be­gan ne­go­ti­at­ing with Mo­taSoto, for­merly of Nor­ris­town, for the pur­chase of heroin. Mota-Soto, au­thor­i­ties al­leged, had ties to a con­fi­den­tial in­for­mant in Nor­ris­town.

Mota-Soto al­legedly agreed to find the in­for­mant a source ca­pa­ble of sup­ply­ing up to 3 kilo­grams of heroin at a time, ac­cord­ing to court papers. On July 11, an in­for­mant met Mota-Soto in Philadel­phia, and Mota-Soto pro­vided “a sam­ple” of what was be­lieved to be heroin for $1,000. How­ever, a chem­i­cal anal­y­sis de­ter­mined the sub­stance was fen­tanyl.

“In fact, the co-de­fen­dants knew it,” Steele al­leged, re­fer­ring to a text mes­sage in which Tav­eras-Payano told Mo­taSoto “what he bought yes­ter­day is syn­thetic.” “Syn­thetic means fen­tanyl.

“So now law en­force­ment was cer­tainly in­ter­ested in buy­ing more fen­tanyl and work­ing our way up the sup­ply pipe­line,” Steele added.

Un­der­cover agents then ne­go­ti­ated to pur­chase a kilo of fen­tanyl from Mota-Soto for $64,000, ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint. On July 24, that drug trans­ac­tion oc­curred in a shop­ping cen­ter in Chel­tenham and Mota-Soto was taken into cus­tody at that time, pros­e­cu­tors said.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ued and de­tec­tives were able to even­tu­ally link all three de­fen­dants to the sales of fen­tanyl. De­tec­tives also de­ter­mined that Tav­eras-Pay- ano was the source of the fen­tanyl in the Bronx, New York, and his cousin, Del Orbe, played an in­te­gral role in the two de­liv­er­ies, Steele al­leged.

Steele said fen­tanyl is so pow­er­ful he could not dis­play it to the me­dia, as he typ­i­cally does when an­nounc­ing other drug ar­rests. In­stead, on Tues­day, Steele showed only pho­tos of the drug that was seized by au­thor­i­ties dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“We’re just not tak­ing any chances with this or ex­pos­ing any­one to it. Fen­tanyl is too deadly to even have in the room,” Steele said.

County and Chel­tenham de­tec­tives were as­sisted in the joint in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Philadel­phia Po­lice, the DEA, Ch­ester County Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, and the U.S. Mar­shal Ser­vice.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF THE MONT­GOMERY COUNTY DIS­TRICT AT­TOR­NEY’S OF­FICE

In this photo sub­mit­ted by the Mont­gomery County Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, the ac­tual fen­tanyl re­cently seized is shown.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF THE MONT­GOMERY COUNTY DIS­TRICT AT­TOR­NEY’S OF­FICE

In this photo sub­mit­ted by the Mont­gomery County Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, you can see the phys­i­cal dif­fer­ences be­tween heroin and fen­tanyl.

Lincoln Payano Del Orbe

Christina Mota Soto

Wil­bert Tav­eras-Payano

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