Authorities found thousands of rainbow-colored fentanyl pills hidden inside a Lego box, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced this week. The nighttime bust occurred in Manhattan last week, leading to the arrest of a New Jersey woman.
"Rainbow fentanyl is a clear and present danger, and it is here in New York City," DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino said a press release.
Officials called it the biggest such seizure to date in New York City, and said the drugs were meant for widespread distribution. Federal agents are working to crack down on violent drug cartels in Mexico believed to be trafficking the drugs into the U.S.
First reported in February, thein at least 21 states, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said last month. While fentanyl is still more commonly disguised as oxycodone or another prescription drug, officials say the rainbow pills are on the rise.
"Disguising fentanyl as candy — and concealing it in children's toys — will never hide the fact that fentanyl is a deadly poison that harms our communities, our families, and our city," NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell said in a statement.
Investigators said they observed the suspect, 48-year-old Latesha Bush, carrying what appeared to be a black tote bag wrapped around a large object as she entered a vehicle.
After they stopped the vehicle, law enforcement allegedly found two black tote bags and a yellow Lego container with several brick-shaped packages covered in black tape lying next to the building blocks. Black tape covering one of the packages had been partially opened, exposing the colorful pills inside.
There were approximately 15,000 pills, and preliminary testing showed the presence of fentanyl, according to the DEA. Fentanyl is a lab-created opioid drug that can be 50 times, so even a small amount can lead to .
The suspect was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court last Friday and bail was set, officials noted in the press release.
"This operation alone removed the equivalent of 500,000 lethal doses of fentanyl from circulation in the Empire State," Tarentino said. "In the same reporting period, DEA seized the equivalent of over 36 million lethal doses nationally."
Two Mexican drug cartels are responsible for the majority of fentanyl in the U.S., according to federal officials: the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
"Those cartels are acting with calculated, deliberate treachery to get fentanyl to the United States and to get people to buy it through fake pills, by hiding it in other drugs, any means that they can take in order to drive addiction and to make money," Milgram
The Department of Justice considers the Jalisco cartel to be "one of the five most dangerous transnational criminal organizations in the world." The cartel's leader, Nemesio Oseguera, " " is among the most sought by Mexican and U.S. authorities.
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