U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia William Ihlenfeld and West Virginia law enforcement officials say the discovery of “Rainbow Fentanyl” in Morgantown should serve as a stark warning to the public.
During a recent search of a residence in Morgantown, officers with West Virginia’s Metro Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force discovered a large batch of illicit candy-colored fentanyl pills. The pills were stamped with M/30 – similar to a conventional oxycodone pill.
According to a National Drug Assessment report from the DEA, fentanyl traffickers use fentanyl powder and pill presses to produce pills that resemble popular prescription opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, and other popular prescription drugs, such as alprazolam.
Ihlenfeld said drug cartels are finding more and more creative ways to traffic harmless looking pills that can be deadly. He said the number of adolescent deaths has doubled over the past decade due to the emergence and marketing of illicit fentanyl.
“The number of drug overdose deaths it has caused compared to all other drugs is disproportionate,” he said. “Fentanyl has killed roughly 70,000 of the 107 thousand people who died in the last year on record from drug overdoses.”
Ihlenfeld said he suspects the fentanyl originated in Mexico and came to Morgantown from California.
The candy-colored pills are consistent with a trend witnessed in other parts of the country.
FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent Mike Nordwall, who was involved in the Morgantown drug seizure, said law enforcement will relentlessly pursue drug dealers who are targeting youth with drugs disguised as candy.
“These pills may look harmless, but they are potentially deadly,” Nordwall said. “We ask the community to talk with your children about the dangers of illegal drugs and to not take something if they aren’t sure what it is or where it came from.”
During the search in Morgantown, officers also recovered significant quantities of crystal methamphetamine, cocaine, and powdered fentanyl. The investigation is ongoing and criminal charges in the case are pending.
The Mon Metro Drug Task Force is a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) funded initiative and includes representatives from the Morgantown Police Department, the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office and Monongalia County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, West Virginia State Police, West Virginia University Police Department and others.